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Stanley M. Burstein 


The Reign oe Ceeopatra 

Greenwood Guides to Historic Events of the Ancient World 

The Peloponnesian War 
Lawrence Tritle 

The Reign of 

Stanley M. Burstein 

Greenwood Guides to Historic Events of the Ancient World 
Bella Vivante, Series Editor 


Westport, Connecticut * London 

To the memory of 

Dr. Miriam Lichtheim (1914-2004), 

distinguished Egyptologist and teacher. 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Burstein, Stanley Mayer. 

The reign of Cleopatra / by Stanley M. Burstein. 

p. cm. — (Greenwood guides to historic events of the ancient world) 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 

ISBN 0-313-32527-8 (alk. paper) 

1. Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, d. 30 B.C. 2. Egypt— History— 332-30 B.C. 

3. Queens — Egypt — Biography. I. Title. II. Series. 
DT92.7.B87 2004 
932'.021'092— dc22 2004014672 

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data is available. 

Copyright © 2004 by Stanley M. Burstein 

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be 
reproduced, by any process or technique, without the 
express written consent of the publisher. 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2004014672 
ISBN: 0-313-32527-8 

First published in 2004 

Greenwood Press, 88 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06881 
An imprint of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. 

Printed in the United States of America 


The paper used in this book complies with the 
Permanent Paper Standard issued by the National 
Information Standards Organization (Z39. 48-1984). 

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 

Excerpts from Business Papers of the Third Century B.C. Dealing with Palestine and Egypt, 
vol. 2, ed. W. L. Westermann, C. W. Keyes, and H. Liebesny (New York: Columbia 
University Press, 1940). Reprinted with the permission of the publisher. 

Reprinted by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of the Loeb Classical Li- 
brary from Caesar: Alexandrian, African and Spanish Wars, LCL 402, Loeb Classical Li- 
brary, vol. Ill, trans. A. G. Way (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1955). 
The Loeb Classical Library ® is a registered trademark of the President and Fellows of 
Harvard College. 

Reprinted by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of the Loeb Classical Li- 
brary from Propertius: Elegies, LCL 18, Loeb Classical Library, vol. 1, trans. G. P. Goold 
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990). The Loeb Classical Library ® is a 
registered trademark of the President and Fellows of Harvard College. 

Excerpts from The Hellenistic Age from the Battle of Ipsos to the Death of Kleopatra VII, 
ed. and trans. Stanley M. Burstein (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 
1985). Used by permission of Cambridge University. 

Excerpts from The Hellenistic Period: Historical Sources in Translation, ed. Roger S. Bag- 
nail and Peter Derow (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2004). Used by permission of 
Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 

Excerpts from The Complete Works of Tacitus, trans. John Church and William Jackson 
Brodribb (New York: Random House, 1942), pp. 653-55. 

Excerpts from Caesar, The Civil Wars (London: William Heinemann, 1914), pp. 

Excerpts from Plutarch, Plutarch's Lives, trans. Bernadotte Perrin, vol. 8 (London: Wil- 
liam Heinemann, Ltd., 1919), pp. 555-60. 

Excerpts from Plutarch, Plutarch's Lives, trans. Bernadotte Perrin, vol. 9 (London: Wil- 
liam Heinemann, Ltd., 1920), pp. 187-333. 

Excerpts from Horace, The Odes and Epodes, trans. C. E. Bennett (London: William 
Heinemann, Ltd., 1914), pp. 99-101. 

Excerpts from Virgil, The Aeneid 7—12: The Minor Poems, trans. H. R. Fairclough (Lon- 
don: William Heinemann, Ltd., 1918), pp. 107-9. 

Adapted excerpts from the translation of S.R.K. Glanville, published in E. Bevan, The 
House of Ptolemy: A History of Egypt under the Ptolemaic Dynasty (London: Arnold, 
1927), pp. 347-48. 

Excerpts from D. Brendan Nagle and Stanley M. Burstein, The Ancient World: Readings 
in Social and Cultural History (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995), pp. 154-55. 
Trans. Stanley Burstein. 

Excerpts from Josephos, Against Apion 1.304. Trans. Stanley Burstein. 


Series Foreword by Bella Vivante ix 

Preface xv 

Chronology of Events xvii 

Chapter 1. Historical Background 1 

Chapter 2. Cleopatra's Life 11 

Chapter 3. Ptolemaic Egypt: How Did It Work? 33 

Chapter 4. Cleopatra's Egypt: A Multicultural Society 43 

Chapter 5. Alexandria: City of Culture and Conflict 53 

Chapter 6. Conclusion: Queen and Symbol 63 

Biographies: Significant Figures in the Reign of Cleopatra VII 7 1 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 93 

Appendix: The Ptolemies 155 

Glossary of Selected Terms 157 

Notes 163 

Annotated Bibliography 167 

Index 175 

Photo essay follows Chapter 6 . 

Series Foreword 

As a professor and scholar of the ancient Greek world, I am often asked 
by students and scholars of other disciplines, why study antiquity? What 
possible relevance could human events from two, three, or more thou- 
sand years ago have to our lives today? This questioning of the contin- 
ued validity of our historical past may be the offshoot of the forces 
shaping the history of the American people. Proud of forging a new na- 
tion out of immigrants wrenched willingly or not from their home soils, 
Americans have experienced a liberating headiness of separation from 
traditional historical demands on their social and cultural identity. The 
result has been a skepticism about the very validity of that historical past. 
Some of that skepticism is healthy and serves constructive purposes of 
scholarly inquiry. Questions of how, by whom, and in whose interest "his- 
tory" is written are valid questions pursued by contemporary historians 
striving to uncover the multiple forces shaping any historical event and 
the multilayered social consequences that result. But the current aca- 
demic focus on "presentism" — the concern with only recent events and 
a deliberate ignoring of premodern eras — betrays an extreme distortion 
of legitimate intellectual inquiry. This stress on the present seems to have 
deepened in the early years of the twenty-first century. The cybertech- 
nological explosions of the preceding decades seem to have propelled us 
into a new cultural age requiring new rules that make the past appear all 
the more obsolete. 

So again I ask, why study ancient cultures? In the past year, after it 
ousted that nation's heinous regime, the United States' occupation of 
Iraq has kept that nation in the forefront of the news. The land base of 
Iraq is ancient Mesopotamia, "the land between the rivers" of the Tigris 

Series Ft 

eries Foreword 

and Euphrates, two of the four rivers in the biblical Garden of Eden (Gen. 
2). Called the cradle of civilization, this area witnessed the early devel- 
opment of a centrally organized, hierarchical social system that utilized 
the new technology of writing to administer an increasingly complex 

Is there a connection between the ancient events, literature, and art 
coming out of this land and contemporary events? Michael Wood, in his 
educational video Iraq: The Cradle of Civilization, produced shortly after 
the 1991 Gulf War, thinks so and makes this connection explicit — be- 
tween the people, their way of interacting with their environment, and 
even the cosmological stories they create to explain and define their 

Study of the ancient world, like study of contemporary cultures other 
than one's own, has more than academic or exotic value. First, study of 
the past seeks meaning beyond solely acquiring factual knowledge. It 
strives to understand the human and social dynamics that underlie any 
historical event and what these underlying dynamics teach us about our- 
selves as human beings in interaction with one another. Study of the past 
also encourages deeper inquiry than what appears to some as the "quaint" 
observation that this region of current and recent conflict could have 
served as a biblical ideal or as a critical marker in the development of 
world civilizations. In fact, these apparently quaint dimensions can serve 
as the hook that piques our interest into examining the past and dis- 
covering what it may have to say to us today. Not an end in itself, the 
knowledge forms the bedrock for exploring deeper meanings. 

Consider, for example, the following questions. What does it mean 
that three major world religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — de- 
veloped out of the ancient Mesopotamian worldview? In this view, the 
world, and hence its gods, were seen as being in perpetual conflict with 
one another and with the environment, and death was perceived as a 
matter of despair and desolation. What does it mean that Western forms 
of thinking derive from the particular intellectual revolution of archaic 
Greece that developed into what is called rational discourse, ultimately 
systematized by Aristotle in the fourth century b.c.e.? How does this 
thinking, now fundamental to Western discourse, shape how we see the 
world and ourselves, and how we interact with one another? And how 
does it affect our ability, or lack thereof, to communicate intelligibly with 
people with differently framed cultural perceptions? What, ultimately, do 

Series Foreword 

we gain from being aware of the origin and development of these fun- 
damental features of our thinking and beliefs? 

In short, knowing the past is essential for knowing ourselves in the 
present. Without an understanding of where we came from, and the jour- 
ney we took to get where we are today, we cannot understand why we 
think or act the way we do. Nor, without an understanding of historical 
development, are we in a position to make the kinds of constructive 
changes necessary to advance as a society. Awareness of the past gives us 
the resources necessary to make comparisons between our contemporary 
world and past times. It is from those comparisons that we can assess both 
the advances we have made as human societies and those aspects that 
can still benefit from change. Hence, knowledge of the past is crucial for 
shaping our individual and social identities, providing us with the re- 
sources to make intelligent, aware, and informed decisions for the future. 

All ancient societies, whether significant for the evolution of Western 
ideas and values, or whether they developed largely separate from the 
cultures that more directly influenced Western civilization, such as 
China, have important lessons to teach us. For fundamentally they all 
address questions that have faced every human individual and every 
human society that has existed. Because ancient civilizations erected 
great monuments of themselves in stone, writings, and the visual arts — 
all enduring material evidence — we can view how these ancient cultures 
dealt with many of the same questions we face today. And we learn the 
consequences of the actions taken by people in other societies and times 
that, ideally, should help us as we seek solutions to contemporary issues. 
Thus it was that President John F. Kennedy wrote of his reliance upon 
Thucydides' treatment of the devastating war between the ancient Greek 
city-states of Athens and Sparta (see the volume on the Peloponnesian 
War) in his study of exemplary figures, Profiles in Courage. 

This series seeks to fulfill this goal both collectively and in the indi- 
vidual volumes. The individual volumes examine key events, trends, and 
developments in world history in ancient times that are central to the 
secondary school and lower-level undergraduate history curriculum and 
that form standard topics for student research. From a vast field of po- 
tential subjects, these selected topics emerged after consultations with 
scholars, educators, and librarians. Each book in the series can be de- 
scribed as a "library in a book." Each one presents a chronological time- 
line and an initial factual overview of its subject, three to five topical 

Series Foreword 

essays that examine the subject from diverse perspectives and for its var- 
ious consequences, a concluding essay providing current perspectives on 
the event, biographies of key players, a selection of primary documents, 
illustrations, a glossary, and an index. The concept of the series is to pro- 
vide ready-reference materials that include a quick, in-depth examina- 
tion of the topic and insightful guidelines for interpretive analysis, 
suitable for student research and designed to stimulate critical thinking. 
The authors are all scholars of the topic in their fields, selected both on 
the basis of their expertise and for their ability to bring their scholarly 
knowledge to a wider audience in an engaging and clear way. In these 
regards, this series follows the concept and format of the Greenwood 
Guides to Historic Events of the Twentieth Century, the Fifteenth to 
Nineteenth Centuries, and the Medieval World. 

All the works in this series deal with historical developments in early 
ancient civilizations, almost invariably postdating the emergence of writ- 
ing and of hierarchical dynastic social structures. Perhaps only inciden- 
tally do they deal with what historians call the Paleolithic ("Old Stone 
Age") periods, from about 25,000 b.c.e. onward, eras characterized by 
nomadic, hunting-gathering societies, or the Neolithic ("New Stone 
Age"), the period of the earliest development of agriculture and hence 
settled societies, one of the earliest dating to about 7000 b.c.e. at Catal 
Hoyiik in south-central Turkey. 

The earliest dates covered by the books in this series are the fourth to 
second millennia b.c.e. for the building of the Pyramids in Egypt, and 
the examination of the Trojan War and the Bronze Age civilizations of 
the eastern Mediterranean. Most volumes deal with events in the first 
millennium b.c.e. to the early centuries of the first millennium c.e. Some 
treat the development of civilizations, such as the rise of the Han Em- 
pire in China, or the separate volumes on the rise and on the decline 
and fall of the Roman Empire. Some highlight major personalities and 
their empires, such as the volumes on Cleopatra VII of Ptolemaic Egypt 
or Justinian and the beginnings of the Byzantine Empire in eastern 
Greece and Constantinople (Istanbul). Three volumes examine the 
emergence in antiquity of religious movements that form major contem- 
porary world systems of belief — Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity. 
(Islam is being treated in the parallel Medieval World series.) And two 
volumes examine technological developments, one on the building of the 
Pyramids and one on other ancient technologies. 

Series Foreword 

Each book examines the complexities of the forces shaping the de- 
velopment of its subject and the historical consequences. Thus, for ex- 
ample, the volume on the fifth-century b.c.e. Greek Peloponnesian War 
explores the historical causes of the war, the nature of the combatants' 
actions, and how these reflect the thinking of the period. A particular 
issue, which may seem strange to some or timely to others, is how a city 
like Athens, with its proto-democratic political organization and its out- 
standing achievements in architecture, sculpture, painting, drama, and 
philosophy, could engage in openly imperialist policies of land conquest 
and of vicious revenge against any who countered them. Rather than try- 
ing to gloss over the contradictions that emerge, these books conscien- 
tiously explore whatever tensions arise in the ancient material, both to 
portray more completely the ancient event and to highlight the fact that 
no historical occurrence is simply determined. Sometimes societies that 
we admire in some ways — such as the artistic achievements and demo- 
cratic political experiments of ancient Athens — may prove deeply trou- 
blesome in other ways — such as what we see as their reprehensible 
conduct in war and brutal subjection of other Greek communities. Con- 
sequently, the reader is empowered to make informed, well-rounded judg- 
ments on the events and actions of the major players. 

We offer this series as an invitation to explore the past in various ways. 
We anticipate that from its volumes the reader will gain a better appre- 
ciation of the historical events and forces that shaped the lives of our an- 
cient forebears and that continue to shape our thinking, values, and 
actions today. However remote in time and culture these ancient civi- 
lizations may at times appear, ultimately they show us that the questions 
confronting human beings of any age are timeless and that the examples 
of the past can provide valuable insights into our understanding of the 
present and the future. 

Bella Vivante 
University of Arizona 


Cleopatra VII is one of the most remarkable figures in ancient history. 
The last of the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt, she struggled for two decades 
to preserve the independence of her kingdom and to restore the glory of 
her ancestors. Cleopatra's dramatic life was intertwined with those of 
some of the most powerful Romans of her time, including Julius Caesar, 
Mark Antony, and the future emperor Augustus. Her death in 30 b.c.e. 
brought to an end the history both of Egypt as an independent kingdom 
and of the successors of Alexander the Great. It also opened a two- 
millennia-long history of the queen as a potent symbol of female sexual- 
ity and power. 

Chapter 1 provides a brief history of Ptolemaic rule in Egypt, from the 
conquest of Alexander the Great in 332 b.c.e. to the accession of Cleopa- 
tra's father Ptolemy XII in 80 b.c.e. The chapter traces the expansion of 
Ptolemaic power in the eastern Mediterranean basin in the third century 
b.c.e. and its gradual decline in the second century b.c.e. It also describes 
the gradual transformation of Rome from a distant but benevolent power 
to a major threat to Egyptian independence. 

Having described the historical context of Cleopatra's reign, Chapter 
2 recounts her life. The chapter describes her gradual emergence as ruler 
of Egypt and her efforts to preserve the independence of her kingdom by 
enlisting the support of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. It also makes 
clear that Cleopatra was not simply a "sexual predator" but an able queen 
with realistic and potentially achievable goals. 

Although the narrative of Cleopatra's reign necessarily focuses on her 
relations with Rome and Romans, the reality was that governing Egypt 
occupied the bulk of her life. The next three chapters deal with that re- 


ality. Chapter 3 discusses the organization of Egypt and how the discov- 
ery of ancient papyri has enabled scholars to reconstruct how the gov- 
ernment of Cleopatra's Egypt worked. Chapter 4 analyzes the complex 
society of Ptolemaic Egypt, exploring the interaction of Egyptians, 
Greeks, and Jews in one of the earliest known multicultural societies. 
Chapter 5 focuses on Alexandria — Cleopatra's capital — and its remark- 
able culture, which made it the principal city of the Hellenistic world. 
Finally, the conclusion traces the long and complex afterlife of Cleopa- 
tra as a symbol in Western culture. 

The book also includes sections containing brief biographies of sixteen 
figures who played major roles in Cleopatra's life, as well as a selection 
of the principal primary sources documenting the history of her reign. 
The biographies will give substance to the figures only briefly mentioned 
in the text, while the documents will provide readers with examples of 
the evidence used to reconstruct her biography. A glossary of selected 
terms, an appendix on the Ptolemies, and an annotated bibliography con- 
clude the book. 

In the course of the preparation of The Reign of Cleopatra I incurred 
many debts. I would particularly like to thank Professor Erich Gruen of 
the University of California at Berkeley, who kindly provided me with a 
copy of his article "Cleopatra in Rome: Facts and Fantasies" prior to its 
publication. I would also like to express my gratitude to Professors Bren- 
dan Nagle of the University of Southern California and Miriam E. 
Burstein of the State University of New York at Brockport for reading 
and commenting on earlier versions of the manuscript, and to my editor, 
Professor Bella Vivante of the University of Arizona, for inviting me to 
write this book and for her constant support and encouragement. 

Chronology of 


332 B.C.E. Alexander the Great conquers Egypt and estab- 

lishes Macedonian rule. He also founds the city of 

323-283 B.C.E. Ptolemy, son of Lagos, receives Egypt as his satrapy 

in the division of Alexander's empire in the sum- 
mer of 323 b.c.e. During his forty-year reign, he cre- 
ates an Egyptian empire by annexing Libya, Cyprus, 
and Koile Syria. He also founds the Museum and 

283-246 B.C.E. Ptolemy II succeeds his father as king. During his 

thirty-seven-year reign, he defends the Egyptian 
empire against Seleucid attacks, while expanding 
Ptolemaic power in Nubia, the Aegean, and Ana- 
tolia. He completes building the Pharos lighthouse 
and the Museum and Library. He also organizes the 
administration of Egypt and establishes the cult of 
the ruler and the practice of royal incest by marry- 
ing his sister, Arsinoe II. 

273 B.C.E. Ptolemy II opens relations with Rome by sending 

an embassy to congratulate Rome for its victory in 
its war with Pyrrhos, king of Epiros. 

245 B.C.E. Ptolemy III invades Syria and Mesopotamia, and 

expands the Ptolemaic empire to its greatest extent. 

Chronology of Events 

217 B.C.E. Ptolemy IV defeats the Seleukid king Antiochos III 

in the Battle of Raphia, preserving Ptolemaic rule 
in Koile Syria. 

207 B.C.E. Rebellion breaks out in Upper Egypt supported by 

native troops armed by Ptolemy IV for the Battle 
of Raphia and the kingdom of Kush in Nubia. For 
two decades the Ptolemies lose control of southern 
Egypt to two native Egyptian kings, Herwennefer 
and Ankhwennefer. 

200 B.C.E. Ptolemy V's government seeks Roman support 

against the agreement between Antiochos III and 
Philip V of Macedon to divide up Ptolemaic for- 
eign possessions. Rome orders both not to attack 
Ptolemaic territory. 

197 B.C.E. Antiochos III defeats the forces of Ptolemy V at the 

Battle of Panion and occupies Koile Syria and Ana- 
tolia, beginning the dismemberment of the Ptole- 
maic empire. 

194 B.C.E. Ptolemy V marries Cleopatra I, daughter of Antio- 

chos III, without informing Rome. Relations with 
Rome deteriorate as a result. 

186 B.C.E. Ptolemy V defeats Ankhwennefer and his Kushite 

allies and reunites Egypt. 

168 B.C.E. Rome defeats Macedon in the Third Macedonian 

War and suppresses the Macedonian monarchy. A 
Roman ambassador orders Antiochos IV to with- 
draw from Egypt, frustrating his plan to unite Egypt 
and Syria. 

163 B.C.E. Ptolemy VI agrees to his brother's ruling an inde- 

pendent kingdom in Libya in order to end Ptolemy 
VIII's efforts to supplant him as king of Egypt. 
Ptolemy VIII tries to induce the Roman Senate to 
force his brother to give him Cyprus. 

Chronology of Events 

156/5 B.C.E. Ptolemy VIII draws up a will leaving his kingdom 

to Rome following an unsuccessful assassination at- 
tempt on his life. 

145-1 16 B.C.E. Ptolemy VIII becomes king of Egypt and reunites 

the Egyptian empire. 

c. 106 B.C.E. Ptolemy IX Soter II rules Cyprus as an independ- 

ent kingdom. 

c. 100 B.C.E. Ptolemy XII is born to Ptolemy XI and an unknown 


96 B.C.E. Ptolemy Apion — king of Libya and son of Ptolemy 

VIII — dies, leaving Libya to Rome in his will. 

88 B.C.E. Ptolemy X dies, leaving Egypt and Cyprus to Rome 

in his will. 

80 B.C.E. The Greek citizens of Alexandria murder Ptolemy 

XI and divide the remaining territories of the 
Ptolemies, making Ptolemy XII king of Egypt and 
his brother Ptolemy king of Cyprus. 

70s B.C.E. Ptolemy XII marries his sister, Cleopatra V 

Tryphaina, who bears him a daughter, Berenike. He 
probably also forms a relationship with an unknown 
Egyptian woman. 

74 B.C.E. Rome accepts the legacy of Ptolemy Apion and or- 

ganizes Libya as a province. 

70 B.C.E. Cleopatra VII is born, the second daughter of 

Ptolemy XII. 

60s B.C.E. Arsinoe IV is born. 

67-63 B.C.E. Pompey defeats Mithridates VI of Pontus and con- 

quers Syria and Palestine. 

63 B.C.E. Roman tribune unsuccessfully proposes to annex 

Egypt. Pompey suppresses the Jewish monarchy in 
Judaea. Ptolemy XII offers assistance to him. 

Chronology of Events 

61 B.C.E. Ptolemy XIII is born. 

59 B.C.E. Ptolemy XII is recognized as king of Egypt and 

friend of the Roman people through a law moved 
by Julius Caesar at the cost of huge bribes. Ptolemy 
XIV is born. 

58 B.C.E. Rome acts on the will of Ptolemy X and annexes 

Cyprus. Ptolemy of Cyprus commits suicide. 
Ptolemy XII is exiled by the Alexandrians, who 
make his eldest daughter, Berenike, and his wife, 
Cleopatra V, joint rulers. 

57 B.C.E. Cleopatra V dies, leaving Berenike as sole ruler of 

Egypt. Ptolemy XII seeks help in Rome to restore 
himself to power. 

55 B.C.E. Aulus Gabinius, governor of Syria, returns Ptolemy 

XII to power, who executes his daughter Berenike 
and purges his enemies in Alexandria. 

54 B.C.E. Rome launches an unsuccessful invasion of Parthia. 

Marcus Crass is defeated and killed in the Battle of 
Carrhae in Syria. 

52 B.C.E. Cleopatra VII becomes Ptolemy XII's co-regent as 

ruler of Egypt. 

51 B.C.E. Ptolemy XII dies, leaving a will in which he makes 

his eldest son, Ptolemy XIII, and Cleopatra VII 
joint rulers and the Roman people their guardians. 
Before his death, he sends the will to Rome where 
it is received and kept by Pompey. Ptolemy XIII 
marries Cleopatra. 

50 B.C.E. Cleopatra suppresses her brother and rules Egypt 

alone for most of the year. Ptolemy XIII returns to 
power, exiling Cleopatra. 

49/8 B.C.E. Cleopatra gathers an army in Syria and attempts to 

regain power. 

Chronology of Events 

48 B.C.E. After his defeat in the Battle of Pharsalus, Pompey 

flees to Egypt, where he is murdered by agents of 
Ptolemy XIII. Julius Caesar comes to Alexandria. 
He reconciles Ptolemy XIII and Cleopatra VII and 
returns Cyprus to Ptolemaic rule. Caesar and 
Cleopatra are besieged in Alexandria by the forces 
of Ptolemy XIII and his sister Arsinoe. Ptolemy XIII 
is killed in battle and Arsinoe is captured. Cleopa- 
tra VII becomes queen of Egypt as the wife of 
Ptolemy XIV 

47 B.C.E. Cleopatra gives birth to a son by Caesar whom she 

names Ptolemy Caesarion. 

46 B.C.E. Cleopatra, Ptolemy XIV, and Caesarion visit Rome 

for the first time. Cleopatra is recognized as a friend 
of the Roman people. Caesar holds a triumph for 
his victories in Gaul, Egypt, Pontus, and Maureta- 
nia. Caesar orders Cleopatra's sister Arsinoe to go 
into exile at Ephesus. 

44 B.C.E. Cleopatra visits Rome for the second time with 

Caesarion and Ptolemy XIV Julius Caesar is assas- 
sinated on March 15. Cleopatra returns to Egypt. 
Ptolemy XIV dies under mysterious circumstances 
and Caesarion is crowned king as Ptolemy Caesar- 

43 B.C.E. Civil war breaks out at Rome. Octavian, Mark 

Antony, and Marcus Lepidus form the Second Tri- 
umvirate to fight the senatorial forces led by Cae- 
sar's assassins Brutus and Cassius. 

42 B.C.E. The forces of Brutus and Cassius are defeated in the 

Battle of Philippi by the triumviral army com- 
manded by Antony. 

41 B.C.E. Cleopatra is summoned to meet Antony at Tarsus 

to explain her actions during the civil war. Cleopa- 
tra is pardoned and her control of Egypt is recog- 
nized. Arsinoe is executed at Ephesus on orders of 

Chronology of Events 

Antony in accordance with his agreement with 

40 B.C.E. Antony spends the winter in Alexandria as the 

guest of Cleopatra. Antony returns to Italy and 
comes to terms with Octavian. Their renewed al- 
liance is sealed by Antony's marriage to Octavian's 
sister Octavia. Cleopatra bears her first children by 
Antony, the twins Alexander Helios and Cleopatra 

37 B.C.E. After a three-year absence, Antony returns to An- 

tioch in Syria to make plans for a major campaign 
against Parthia. Cleopatra meets Antony in Anti- 
och, where he transfers to Egyptian rule Cyprus, 
Crete, Kyrene, several cities in Phoenicia, Syria, 
Cilicia, and the Arab kingdom of Iturea in north- 
ern Palestine. Antony recognizes Alexander Helios 
and Cleopatra Selene as his children. 

36 B.C.E. Cleopatra gives birth to Ptolemy Philadelphos, her 

last child by Antony. Antony's Parthian Campaign 
ends in complete failure. After the return of his 
army to Syria, Antony goes to Egypt with Cleopa- 

34 B.C.E. Antony invades Armenia, captures the king of Ar- 

menia, and makes Armenia a Roman province. 
Antony and Cleopatra celebrate his victory over 
the king of Armenia, concluding with the recogni- 
tion of Caesarion as the son of Julius Caesar and 
the assignment of territories within and without the 
Roman Empire to Cleopatra and their children. 

33-32 B.C.E. Relations between Antony and Octavian deterio- 

rate openly. Antony divorces Octavia and marries 
Cleopatra. Octavian persuades the Senate to de- 
clare war on Cleopatra instead of Antony. 

3 1 B.C.E. Warfare breaks out between Antony and Octavian, 

concluding with the defeat of Antony and Cleopa- 

Chronology of Events 

tra's forces in the Battle of Actium. Antony and 
Cleopatra escape to Egypt, while the remainder of 
Antony's navy and army in Greece surrender to Oc- 

30 B.C.E. Octavian conquers Egypt. Antony and Cleopatra 

commit suicide. Octavian executes Caesarion, and 
reorganizes Egypt as Roman territory. 

29 B.C.E. Octavian returns to Rome with the surviving chil- 

dren of Cleopatra. He celebrates his triumph over 
Cleopatra in which for the first time the idea that 
she died of a snake bite appears. 

20s B.C.E. Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphos die. 

c. 25-19 B.C.E. Cleopatra Selene marries Juba II of Mauretania. 

c. 5 B.C.E. Cleopatra Selene dies. 

c. 23/24 C.E. Ptolemy, the son of Juba II and Cleopatra Selene, 

becomes king of Mauretania. 

c. 37-41 C.E. Ptolemy of Mauretania is executed by the emperor 

Caligula, ending the family of Ptolemy I. 



The dramatic reign of Cleopatra VII closed one of the most brilliant 
periods in ancient Egyptian history. For almost three centuries her an- 
cestors ruled Egypt and extended Egyptian influence throughout the 
Aegean and western Asia and deep into Africa and Arabia. Not for 
over a thousand years had Egyptian power and influence been felt over 
so wide an area. This final period of Egyptian greatness was made pos- 
sible by one of the decisive events of ancient history: the conquest of 
the Persian Empire by Alexander III of Macedon in the late fourth cen- 
tury B.C.E. 

Alexander's extraordinary conquests mark the beginning of a new 
epoch in the history of the ancient world that historians call the Hel- 
lenistic period. The Hellenistic period extends from the accession of 
Alexander as king of Macedon in 336 b.c.e. to the Roman conquest of 
Egypt in 30 b.c.e. The term Hellenistic means "Greek-like," and was orig- 
inally used to stigmatize the visual arts and literature of the period after 
Alexander as a decline from the purity and simplicity that characterized 
works of the classical period. Contemporary historians, however, have a 
more positive view of the Hellenistic period, seeing these three centuries 
as a time in which Greeks and Greek culture enjoyed unprecedented 
prestige in western Asia and the eastern Mediterranean. Far from being 
inferior to the achievements of classical Greece, the works of Hellenis- 
tic artists, writers, scientists, and philosophers were of vital importance 
to the formation of later Western and Islamic culture. The origins of the 
Hellenistic world in all its remarkable variety and richness lay in the 
kingdom of Macedon. 



Macedon had been a minor Balkan kingdom until the mid-fourth cen- 
tury b.c.e., when Alexander's father Philip II transformed it into the 
strongest military power in the eastern Mediterranean. In just over two 
decades, he subdued the Balkans from the Danube River to southern 
Greece and organized the various city-states and ethnic confederations 
of Greece into an alliance known as the Korinthian League, which had 
as its purpose the maintenance of Macedonian authority in Greece and 
the invasion of the Persian Empire. Although Macedonian forces were 
already campaigning in the Anatolian provinces of the Persian Empire 
in early 336 b.c.e., Philip's ultimate goals remain unknown, since his dra- 
matic assassination in the summer of 336 b.c.e. during his daughter's wed- 
ding not only aborted his plans but also threatened to undo all that he 
had accomplished in the Balkans. 

The accession of his twenty-year-old son Alexander III saved Philip's 
hard-won empire, averting civil war in Macedon and rebellion by its 
Balkan and Greek subjects. Alexander did far more, however, than 
merely survive. During his thirteen-year reign, he carried out one of the 
most remarkable military campaigns in world history, leading his army all 
the way to western India and unexpectedly fulfilling the seemingly im- 
possible dream of Greek intellectuals of conquering the mighty Persian 
Empire, which had ruled western Asia for over two centuries. 

Alexander's conquests made possible a new social and political order 
in western Asia and the eastern Mediterranean, but he would not be re- 
sponsible for determining its shape or character. His unexpected death at 
Babylon in the summer of 323 b.c.e. at the age of thirty-three aborted 
any plans he may have had for a new political organization for his vast 
empire, leaving the destruction of the Persian Empire as his primary 
achievement. It would fall to his successors to determine the nature of 
his legacy. Four decades of bitter civil war between Alexander's generals 
followed Alexander's death before a new order emerged in the former ter- 
ritories of the Persian Empire. 

The principal casualty of these wars was Alexander's dynasty, which 
fell victim to the ambitions of his generals and the dream of maintain- 
ing the unity of the empire. For almost two decades Antigonos the One- 
Eyed, one of the last surviving commanders of Philip II, struggled to hold 

Historical Background 

the empire together against the bitter opposition of his rivals, finally 
dying in battle at the age of eighty in 301 b.c.e. When the dust cleared 
two decades later in 281 b.c.e., the last traces of Alexander's great em- 
pire had disappeared. In its place was a series of kingdoms ruled by Mace- 
donian dynasties scattered throughout the territories of the old Persian 
Empire. Three of these new kingdoms were of particular importance: 
Macedon, which was ruled by the descendants of Antigonos the One- 
Eyed; the kingdom of Syria, which controlled the central provinces of 
the old Persian Empire and was ruled by Seleukos I; and the kingdom of 
Egypt, which was controlled by Cleopatra's great ancestor, Ptolemy I. 

Ptolemy I's first contact with Egypt occurred in 332 b.c.e., when the 
Persians surrendered it to Alexander without a fight. The full extent of 
his activities during the short time Alexander stayed in Egypt is un- 
known. As one of the king's oldest friends and a member of his personal 
entourage, however, he was certainly present when Alexander laid the 
foundations for Alexandria — the future capital of Ptolemaic Egypt — and 
he probably shared the king's daring and dangerous visit to the oasis of 
Siwah, where the oracle revealed that Alexander was the son of the 
Egyptian god Amon. 

Whatever the details of Ptolemy I's initial encounter with Egypt, he 
was clearly impressed by the country's great wealth and potential, as is 
evident from his actions during the succession crisis that broke out after 
Alexander unexpectedly died without leaving any obvious heir. During 
the ensuing crisis, Ptolemy opposed the maintenance of strong royal au- 
thority, favoring instead the establishment of a weak regency council 
dominated by Alexander's principal commanders while the empire itself 
was divided among the regents and their colleagues. 

Ptolemy's separatist approach to the empire found no followers in the 
immediate aftermath of Alexander's death. Instead, a strong regent was 
appointed for Alexander's joint successors — his mentally retarded half 
brother Philip III and the infant Alexander IV — in the person of 
Perdikkas, the commander of the Macedonian cavalry and the head of 
the imperial administration. Ptolemy did, however, receive Egypt as his 
satrapy in the division of Alexander's empire, which closed the first phase 
of the struggle over the fate of the empire. 

Throughout the forty years of his reign (323 b.c.e. -283 b.c.e.), 
Ptolemy I worked diligently to give legitimacy to his rule of Egypt and 
to ensure its security by creating buffers on its principal frontiers. His first 


step was to secure Egypt's western frontier by converting the city of 
Kyrene in Libya into a protectorate governed by a Ptolemaic official. 
Ptolemy I's Kyrenean adventure aroused no resistance from his potential 
rivals among Alexander's other generals; not so for his next move: the 
diversion of Alexander's funeral cortege to Egypt in 321 b.c.e. as it was 
transporting Alexander's body to Macedon for burial. At a time when all 
Macedonian rulers derived their ultimate legitimacy from their personal 
contact with Alexander, possession of Alexander's body gave Ptolemy I 
and his successors unique prestige. It is not surprising, therefore, that he 
had to fight to retain his prize, thwarting in 321 b.c.e. an attempted in- 
vasion of Egypt by the outraged regent Perdikkas by breaching the Nile 
canals and drowning much of Perdikkas's army, or that Alexander's tomb 
in Alexandria became the central shrine of his dynasty. 

Victory over Perdikkas legitimized Ptolemy I's control of Egypt. 
Ptolemy I henceforth considered Egypt as spear-won land and, therefore, 
his by right of conquest — independent of any decision by Philip III and 
Alexander IV or their future regent. At the same time, his rejection of 
the regency after the assassination of Perdikkas reflected his continuing 
belief that division of the empire into separate kingdoms was both in- 
evitable and desirable. 

For the next two decades, Ptolemy I joined with Seleukos, Kas- 
sander — the successor of Alexander's dynasty as ruler of Macedon — and 
Lysimachos — the satrap of Thrace — to oppose Antigonos the One-Eyed's 
attempt to restore the empire. Like his allies, Ptolemy asserted his inde- 
pendence by quickly proclaiming himself king in response to Antigonos 
the One-Eyed's proclamation of his own kingship in 305 b.c.e. At the 
same time, however, he also carefully avoided direct involvement in the 
great military campaign of 302/1 b.c.e. that put an end to Antigonos's 
imperial dreams. 

Although Ptolemy I did not take part in the decisive campaign against 
Antigonos, he did profit from it, taking advantage of Seleukos's absence 
to add the remainder of Koile Syria (hollow Syria) — essentially modern 
Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and southern Syria — to Judaea, which he had 
conquered in 307 b.c.e., allegedly by taking advantage of Jews' obliga- 
tion of resting on the Sabbath to occupy Jerusalem. Less than a decade 
later, Ptolemy I rounded out his empire by annexing Cyprus, which gave 
him important naval bases from which Egyptian power could be projected 
into the eastern Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. 

Historical Background 

It had been more than three hundred years since the power of an 
Egyptian king had extended over so much of the territory of Egypt's 
neighbors. Not only had Ptolemy I accomplished his goal of building a 
strong buffer around Egypt, but he had also greatly increased Egypt's 
wealth. The conquest of Cyprus and Koile Syria gave Egypt access to im- 
portant mineral and timber resources, while control of the ports of Koile 
Syria (such as Gaza) enabled Ptolemy I and his successors to tap directly 
into important trade routes from Mesopotamia and the incense- 
producing regions of southern Arabia that led to them. 

Ptolemy I's success, however, contained the seeds of his dynasty's even- 
tual decline. The problem was Koile Syria; Seleukos considered it his be- 
cause of his role in the defeat of Antigonos the One-Eyed and believed 
that Ptolemy I had robbed him of his prize. Regaining Koile Syria would 
obsess his successors throughout the third century b.c.e. Ptolemy I coun- 
tered Seleukos' hostility by forming alliances with Lysimachos and im- 
portant Greek cities such as Athens, but it would fall to Ptolemy II 
Philadelphos and his successors to cope with the fallout from Ptolemy I's 


(282-245 b.c.e.) AND PTOLEMY III (245-222 b.c.e.) 

Ptolemy II Philadelphos (Sibling Loving God) is best known for his 
unprecedented and controversial marriage to his full sister Arsinoe II. Al- 
though Ptolemy IPs reasons for entering into this unconventional union 
are unknown, Arsinoe proved to be a capable and popular partner, and 
their marriage set a precedent for many of his successors, including 
Cleopatra VII. Emphasis on his marriage, however, can easily obscure the 
significant achievements of Ptolemy IPs reign. Domestically, he system- 
atized the complex administrative system that ran Ptolemaic Egypt, and 
completed many of the projects Ptolemy I had begun, including the great 
Pharos lighthouse and the Museum and Library in Alexandria. Foreign 
affairs, however, dominated his reign. 

While Seleukos I had not pressed his claim to Koile Syria militarily, 
his successors Antiochos I and Antiochos II did so repeatedly. As a re- 
sult, Ptolemy II fought three wars with the Seleukids during his long 
reign. His goals were to maintain his father's legacy and to keep hostili- 
ties away from Egypt. To that end, Ptolemy II rarely confronted Seleukid 


forces directly. Instead, he exploited his dynasty's superior naval forces to 
wage war around the western periphery of the Seleukid Empire. At the 
same time, he used the enormous wealth and prestige of Egypt to pre- 
vent the Seleukid's Macedonian allies from intervening in the fighting 
by encouraging major Greek cities such as Athens and Sparta to reassert 
their independence in the so-called Chremonidean War (c. 268-262 
b.c.e.). The result of this long struggle was a stalemate that left Ptolemy 
II firmly in control of the core of his empire: Cyprus, Koile Syria, and 

The Ptolemies were also well positioned to exploit any hint of Se- 
leukid weakness. Such an opportunity occurred shortly after the death of 
Ptolemy II in 245 b.c.e., when Berenike — his daughter and widow of An- 
tiochos II — invited his successor, Ptolemy III Euergetes (benefactor), to 
intervene on behalf of her child in the succession crisis that had erupted 
in the Seleukid empire. Although Ptolemy III was unable to save his sis- 
ter and nephew, his army campaigned throughout much of the Seleukid 
empire, reaching as far as the borders of Iran before returning to Egypt, 
laden with booty and glory. 

The results of Ptolemy Ill's spectacular campaign were substantial. Al- 
though Ptolemy III exaggerated by portraying himself to his Greek and 
Egyptian subjects as a conqueror comparable to Alexander the Great, he 
was able to exploit his success to strengthen significantly Ptolemaic power 
in Anatolia and the northern Aegean. Meanwhile, the Seleukid empire 
fell into chaos. In the west, the sons of Antiochos II fought bitterly over 
the succession to the throne while the Parthians, an Iranian people from 
central Asia and the future conquerors of the Seleukid state, took ad- 
vantage of the chaos to settle in western Iran. At about the same time, 
the satrap of Baktria — modern Afghanistan — asserted his independence, 
founding a Greek-dominated kingdom that would exert a powerful influ- 
ence on political and cultural events in central Asia and northern India. 

The long confrontation with the Seleukids also led to a major expan- 
sion of Ptolemaic activity in Nubia and the Red Sea basin. Although 
Egyptian involvement in Nubia can be traced to the earliest days of 
pharaonic history and Ptolemy I even briefly campaigned in Nubia, it was 
only during the reign of Ptolemy II that large-scale Ptolemaic activity in 
the region began. The reasons for the involvement were twofold: first, 
they needed to counter the claims to Lower Nubia of the kingdom of 

Historical Background 

Kush, based near the fourth cataract of the Nile at the city of Napata; 
and second, and more important, they needed to acquire access to a se- 
cure source of elephants. 

The use of war elephants was long established in Asia, and the beasts 
had gained a fearsome reputation during the campaigns of Alexander and 
the first generation of his successors. Since geography and good relations 
with the Maurya rulers of north India gave the Seleukids privileged ac- 
cess to Indian elephants, Ptolemy II and Ptolemy III looked to Nubia to 
offset the Seleukid advantage in elephants. A war fought between 
Ptolemy II and Kush in the 270s b.c.e. gave Ptolemy II control of the 
important gold-mining region immediately south of Egypt known as the 
Dodekaskoinos and free access to Kushite territory farther south. As a re- 
sult, he and his successor, Ptolemy III, built an extensive series of hunt- 
ing stations and ports as far south as modern Port Sudan in central Sudan 
from which Ptolemaic hunting parties — sometimes numbering hundreds 
of men — roamed freely through the eastern Sudan, seeking elephants for 
capture and transport to Egypt and for their ivory. 

Large-scale Ptolemaic elephant hunting in Nubia lasted for almost 
three quarters of a century and produced important results. Most obvi- 
ous were the development of a corps of war elephants that could con- 
front Seleukid elephants in battle, and a greatly improved knowledge of 
the geography and ethnography of Nubia and the Red Sea basin. Less 
obvious but equally important was the growth of Ptolemaic influence in 
the kingdom of Kush. A Greek-educated Nubian king named Ergamenes 
(Arqamani) overthrew Kush's priestly elite, which had played a major 
role in the kingdom's governance since its foundation in the eighth cen- 
tury b.c.e. , thereby opening the way for increased trade with Egypt and 
a substantial expansion of Ptolemaic Egyptian and Greek cultural influ- 
ence in Nubia. 

Ptolemaic diplomatic and commercial activity was not, however, lim- 
ited to Nubia. Sea trade also began in the third century b.c.e. with the 
wealthy incense -bearing kingdoms of Yemen and southern Arabia. 
Ptolemy II even sent an ambassador to India, possibly providing the oc- 
casion for the Buddhist Indian emperor Asoka to send a counterembassy 
to Egypt to preach Buddhism there. Unfortunately, nothing is known of 
the results of Asoka's Buddhist embassy, not even if it actually reached 


DIONYSOS (222 b.c.e.-80 b.c.e.) 

The preeminence of Ptolemaic Egypt among the Hellenistic kingdoms 
lasted for a little over two decades. Its decline began during the reign of 
Ptolemy Ill's successor, Ptolemy IV Philopator (222 b.c.e.-204 b.c.e.). 
Ironically, Ptolemy IV began his reign by inflicting on the young Seleukid 
king Antiochos III a defeat almost as severe as that of 245 b.c.e. Ob- 
sessed like his predecessors by the determination to reassert Seleukid 
power over Koile Syria, Antiochos III launched an invasion in 219 b.c.e. 
that brought him control of most of the area, only to lose it all in 2 1 7 
b.c.e., when he suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Ptolemy IV at 
Raphia, in present-day Israel. 

The Battle of Raphia was the last great Ptolemaic military victory over 
the Seleukids. The subsequent fate of the two monarchs involved in the 
battle, however, differed dramatically. Antiochos III worked diligently to 
reconstitute his forces in the years after the battle. By 212 b.c.e., Anti- 
ochos Ill's position was secure enough that he could undertake a seven- 
year campaign that would repeat Alexander's march and restore Seleukid 
authority throughout much of the vast area between Mesopotamia and 
the borders of India, and gain Antiochos III a formidable reputation as 
a conquering king in the mold of his great ancestors. Meanwhile, Ptole- 
maic rule in Egypt disintegrated. Ptolemy IV had recruited large numbers 
of Egyptian soldiers for the Battle of Raphia, and soon after the battle, 
they became the nucleus for native revolts throughout Upper Egypt. At 
the time of his death in 204 b.c.e., Ptolemy IV had lost control of Upper 
Egypt to native pharaohs supported by Kush, who would rule it until they 
were finally suppressed by his successor Ptolemy V Epiphanes (the man- 
ifest god) in 186 b.c.e. 

The crisis came at the end of the third century b.c.e. With Ptolemy 
V still a child and his government locked in a struggle for survival with 
native pharaohs in Upper Egypt, the far-flung Ptolemaic empire was vul- 
nerable. Antiochos III and Philip V of Macedon entered into a secret 
agreement in 202 b.c.e. to divide up the Ptolemies' foreign possessions. 
Within a year, most Ptolemaic possessions in the north Aegean and 
southern Anatolia had fallen to the kings. 

Historical Background 

Although the agreement was secret, news of it leaked out, resulting in 
Ptolemy V's regents together with other states appealing to Rome, the 
only power strong enough to confront the joint forces of Antiochos III 
and Philip V. The appeal to Rome was understandable. Rome had just 
defeated the North African city-state of Carthage in the Second Punic 
War, making it the dominant power in the western Mediterranean. 
Moreover, relations between the Ptolemies and Rome had been good ever 
since Ptolemy II Philadelphos had sent an embassy to Rome in 273 b.c.e. 
to congratulate the Senate on its defeat of Pyrrhos, the king of Epirus. 
The Romans had been flattered and welcomed the recognition of the rich 
and powerful king of Egypt, and relations between the Ptolemies and the 
rising power in the west had remained cordial for the rest of the third 
century b.c.e. Ptolemaic friendship had, indeed, worked to Rome's ad- 
vantage during the third century b.c.e., allowing the republic to fight 
Carthage without fear of Egyptian intervention. 

The Ptolemaic government's hopes were fulfilled in that the Senate 
ordered the kings to abandon their designs on the Ptolemaic empire. Un- 
fortunately, Rome then became bogged down in the Second Macedon- 
ian War (200-197 b.c.e.), leaving Antiochos III free to pursue his own 
goals with only Roman diplomacy to deter him. By 197 b.c.e., he had 
driven Ptolemaic forces from Koile Syria, then turned north and overran 
the remaining Ptolemaic possessions in Anatolia. Antiochos III had fi- 
nally realized his ancestors' dream of regaining the territory "stolen" from 
Seleukos I by Ptolemy I a century earlier. Desperate to secure the safety 
of Egypt, Ptolemy V's regents made a separate peace with Antiochos III 
in 195 b.c.e., abandoning Ptolemaic claims to much of their former em- 
pire as part of a deal that united the two Macedonian royal houses 
through a marriage between the young Ptolemy V and Antiochos Ill's 
daughter Cleopatra I. 

However understandable the decision to make peace with Antiochos 
III may have been, the fact that it had been made without consulting the 
Senate soured relations between Rome and Egypt, which became imme- 
diately apparent. Acting on the assumption that the separate peace be- 
tween Ptolemy V and Antiochos III freed them of any responsibility to 
support Ptolemaic interests, the Senate ignored Ptolemaic claims to ter- 
ritories captured from Philip V in the Second Macedonian War, assign- 
ing them instead to Rome's chief allies in the war — the kingdom of 


Pergamon in northwest Anatolia and the island state of Rhodes. Simi- 
larly, after defeating Antiochos III in 190 b.c.e., Rome allowed him and 
his dynasty to retain Koile Syria, leaving Ptolemy V with only Cyprus 
and Kyrene as the principal remaining territories of his dynasty's once 
vast empire. Worse, however, was to follow. 

As Rome became ever more clearly the dominant power in the 
Mediterranean in the course of the second century b.c.e., its suspicions 
of all real or potential rivals grew, and it freely used its military and diplo- 
matic power to undermine states it viewed as potential threats. Egypt was 
no exception. Although Rome did save Egypt from absorption into the 
Seleukid state in 168 b.c.e. by peremptorily ordering Antiochos IV 
Epiphanes to withdraw from Egypt or face war, the Senate repeatedly in- 
tervened in Egyptian affairs, forcing Ptolemy VI Philometor (mother-lov- 
ing god) to recognize Kyrene as an independent kingdom ruled by his 
ambitious brother Ptolemy VIII Euergetes and unsuccessfully supporting 
a similar status for Cyprus. 

As a ploy to strengthen his own position against his brother, Ptolemy 
VIII drew up a will naming Rome as his heir — a practice that would later 
be repeated. Although Roman pressure on Egypt eased during the long 
and turbulent reign of its protege Ptolemy VIII (145-116 b.c.e.) despite 
his ruling Egypt, Kyrene, and Cyprus, it resumed after his death. By the 
end of the second century b.c.e., Kyrene was again a separate kingdom 
ruled by an illegitimate son of Ptolemy VIII's named Ptolemy Apion, who 
followed his father's example and named Rome his heir in his will. 

By the early first century b.c.e., however, Rome's reluctance to annex 
territories in the eastern Mediterranean had long since disappeared. The 
Senate, therefore, readily accepted the bequest of Kyrene on learning of 
the death of Ptolemy Apion in 96 b.c.e., thereby gaining possession of 
the oldest portion of the Ptolemies' once great foreign empire. The or- 
ganization of Kyrene as a Roman province two decades later in 75/4 b.c.e. 
brought Roman power almost to within sight of Alexandria. Not sur- 
prisingly, preventing Egypt from suffering the same fate would be the 
overriding goal of Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos — the father of Cleopatra 
VII — from his accession to the throne in 80 b.c.e. to his death almost 
three decades later in 51 b.c.e. 


Cleopatra's Life 

The Roman threat dominated Cleopatra's life just as it did that of her fa- 
ther. Cleopatra VII was born in 69 b.c.e., the second of the five children 
of Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos (the new Dionysos), who had ruled Egypt 
since the death of Ptolemy X Alexander II in 80 b.c.e. The identity of 
Cleopatra's mother is unknown. Historians have generally assumed that 
her mother was Ptolemy XII's sister and wife, Cleopatra V Tryphaina, but 
Cleopatra's younger contemporary, the geographer Strabo, noted that she 
and her younger siblings were illegitimate. There is strong circumstantial 
evidence pointing to her mother being an Egyptian, possibly a relative 
of the high priest of the temple of Ptah, the Egyptian creator god, at 
Memphis, who had crowned her father as king and was the most impor- 
tant priest in Egypt. 1 

Like the identity of Cleopatra's mother, we know nothing about her 
childhood and teenage years. She suddenly emerges on the historical 
scene in 50 b.c.e. as a clear-headed, resourceful, and, above all, ambitious 
young queen fully able to match wits with her rivals and to engage the 
interest of Romans such as Julius Caesar. The source of her abilities must 
lie in these lost years. 

THE LOST YEARS: 69-50 b.c.e. 

Legend ascribed much of her success to her beauty and sexuality, but 
the ancient sources emphasize her intelligence and charm rather than 
her physical beauty, which they claim was average. She was reputed to 
understand eight languages and to be the first of her dynasty to speak 
Egyptian, the language of her subjects. She was also supposed to have 


written books on a variety of subjects including weights and measures, 
cosmetics, and even magic. This suggests that, like her ancestors, Cleopa- 
tra received a good education. In the third and second centuries, major 
poets and scholars served as tutors to Ptolemaic princes and princesses. 
This was probably also true of Cleopatra and her siblings, especially since 
that was how she educated her own children, hiring the noted historian 
and philosopher Nikolaos of Damascus to tutor the twins she bore Mark 
Antony in 40 b.c.e. Her most important teacher, however, was un- 
doubtedly her father, Ptolemy XII. 

Ptolemy XII's obsession with retaining his throne at all costs, and his 
extravagant passion for Dionysos — the Greek god of wine and music, 
whom Greeks identified with the Egyptian royal god Osiris — including 
his practice of accompanying Dionysiac choruses on the flute, earned him 
the sobriquet Auletes (flute player) from his contemporaries and the 
scorn of historians since antiquity. The young Cleopatra probably un- 
derstood little of the theology that underlay her father's religious views. 
She was, however, an astute observer of the spectacular religious 
pageantry of her father's court, with its sensuality and music, as her later 
masterful use of religious spectacle to advance her political goals makes 
clear. Ptolemy XII's most important contributions to her education, how- 
ever, were the harsh lessons in practical politics she gained from observ- 
ing his struggle to keep his throne in the face of ruthless Roman 
politicians and ambitious members of his own family. 

Ptolemy XII's hold on the throne of Egypt was insecure from the mo- 
ment of his accession in 80 b.c.e. As the illegitimate son of Ptolemy IX, 
his right to rule was always open to challenge, especially by Roman politi- 
cians, who increasingly viewed Egypt as a rich prize ready for the taking 
and claimed that Egypt's last legitimate king, Ptolemy X Alexander II, 
had left the kingdom to Rome in his will should he die without heirs. 

The danger posed by Ptolemy X's will first became palpable in 63 
b.c.e., when Cleopatra was barely seven years old. A Roman tribune 
named P. Servilius Rullus proposed that the Roman people annex Egypt 
as provided in the will of Ptolemy X and use its rich farmland as part of 
an ambitious agrarian reform scheme supposedly intended to provide land 
for the Roman poor. 

Fortunately for Ptolemy XII, Rullus' legislation failed. Roman politics 
in the middle and late 60s b.c.e. was dominated by fear of Pompey, who 
had finally overthrown Mithridates VI of Pontus and was building an 

Cleopatra's Life 13 

enormous reputation and personal following as he campaigned success- 
fully throughout the Near East. Although purportedly intended to aid the 
Roman people, the real purpose of Rullus' agrarian law had been to hob- 
ble Pompey by providing a great military command for his rivals Marcus 
Licinius Crassus and Gaius Julius Caesar. 

Ptolemy XII meanwhile sought to gain the support of Pompey, send- 
ing him in 63 b.c.e. a valuable gold crown and promising to pay for a 
force of eight thousand cavalry, ostensibly to assist in the conquest of Ju- 
daea. He also invited Pompey to come to Egypt and restore order. While 
Pompey rejected Ptolemy's tempting invitation, he did accept the crown 
and the cavalry troopers, thereby establishing a tie with the Egyptian 
monarch that would last until the end of his reign. 

Four years later, Ptolemy XII's investment in Pompey's friendship must 
have seemed worth the high cost. Pompey, Crassus, and Julius Caesar 
formed the First Triumvirate in 60 b.c.e., and one of their first acts was 
to finally recognize Ptolemy XII as king of Egypt and a friend and ally of 
the Roman people. But Ptolemy XII's joy at finally being out from under 
the shadow of his predecessor's will was short-lived. Caesar's demands for 
supporting Ptolemy's claim to the throne had exceeded the king's re- 
sources, forcing him to borrow over six thousand talents from Roman 
moneylenders. The Alexandrian Greeks' tolerance for Ptolemy XII's 
courting of Roman support suddenly ended in 58 b.c.e. in the face of his 
passive reaction to Rome's annexation of Cyprus, the last remaining piece 
of the Ptolemies' once great empire. Already embittered by the taxes he 
had levied to repay his Roman creditors, they rebelled and drove Ptolemy 
XII into exile. 

While Ptolemy XII fled to Rome to seek the aid of his patron Pom- 
pey, his subjects proclaimed his wife, Cleopatra V Tryphaina, and his eld- 
est daughter, Berenike, joint rulers and sent a large embassy headed by 
a philosopher named Dion to Rome to justify their actions. Not even 
Pompey could protect the king, however, when he arranged the assassi- 
nation of Dion and most of the ambassadors. Ordered out of Italy by the 
enraged Senate, Ptolemy XII's exile dragged on, while the Senate de- 
bated how to return him to Egypt. His exile finally ended in 55 b.c.e., 
when Aulus Gabinius, the governor of Syria, returned him to power by 

Severe repression followed Ptolemy XII's return to power, as he sought 
to eliminate further resistance to his rule. Backed by a force of Gaulish 


and German mercenaries left in Egypt by Gabinius — the so-called 
Gabinians — he took revenge on his enemies. As his wife was already 
dead, he ordered the execution of his daughter Berenike and her chief 
supporters, and confiscated their property. As that was not enough to 
repay the new loans he had contracted to persuade Gabinius to intervene 
in Egypt, Ptolemy XII even placed his principal creditor, a Roman mon- 
eylender named Gaius Rabirius Postumus, in charge of Egypt's finances 
and allowed him to extort vast sums of money and treasure from the 
country. Rabirius' reign of terror lasted for only a year, ending in 54 b.c.e. 
with his arrest and expulsion from Egypt. Ptolemy XII, however, held on 
to power for another four years. 

Ptolemy XII's long and turbulent reign ended as it had begun, amid 
worry over the succession. The joint deification of his surviving children 
as the New Sibling Loving Gods (Theoi Neoi Philadelphoi) in 52 b.c.e. 
and his appointment of Cleopatra as his coregent early the following year 
made clear his hope that his children would succeed him, but did noth- 
ing to dispel the danger from Rome, heightened now by the huge debts 
he had contracted to secure his claim to the throne. Like his predeces- 
sor Ptolemy X, Ptolemy XII made a will in favor of the Roman people, 
naming them not, however, as his heirs but as the collective guardians 
of his eldest son Ptolemy XIII and Cleopatra, who were to marry and to 
succeed him jointly as rulers of Egypt. After depositing one copy of his 
will in Alexandria for safekeeping and sending another to Pompey, who 
was to present it to the Senate for ratification, Ptolemy XII died in the 
spring of 51 b.c.e., having done all that he could to provide for the sur- 
vival of his dynasty. 


Although Ptolemy XII had intended that Cleopatra would serve as her 
ten-year-old brother's coregent, just as she had done during the final year 
of his own reign, this outcome was unlikely. Not only was she almost a 
decade older than Ptolemy XIII, but her life during the 50s b.c.e. had 
prepared her for power. While he was still a child, whose experience was 
limited to the artificial world of the palace at Alexandria, Cleopatra had 
spent her teenage years sharing her father's political struggles. She had 
experienced the humiliation Ptolemy XII had suffered at the hands of the 
Romans. She had also witnessed both his triumphant return to power in 

Cleopatra's Life 15 

54 b.c.e. and the fearful revenge he had taken on her sister and her sup- 
porters. Not surprisingly, Cleopatra quickly revealed that she would not 
acquiesce in the supremacy of her brother and the court faction headed 
by the eunuch Pothinos that made up his regency council. 

Cleopatra asserted her claim to sole power soon after her father's death. 
Her adoption of the title Thea Philopatora (Goddess Who Loves Her Fa- 
ther) proclaimed her to be his true successor. She also worked to build 
support for her rule in Upper Egypt, where Ptolemy XII had enjoyed 
strong backing. For almost two centuries Upper Egypt — especially the 
Thebaid — had been a hotbed of Egyptian unrest. As recently as the early 
80s b.c.e. , Ptolemy X had brutally suppressed a native rebellion, de- 
stroying much of Thebes in the process. Like innumerable pharaohs be- 
fore him, Ptolemy XII had sought support in the region by sponsoring 
extensive temple-building activity in the great sanctuaries and cultivat- 
ing the priestly and noble families, who treated temple and governmen- 
tal offices as family possessions. The death of the old Buchis bull in 52 
b.c.e. and the discovery of a new bull by Egyptian priests in early 51 b.c.e. 
provided Cleopatra with the chance to continue her father's policies in 
Upper Egypt, and she seized it. 

Greeks and Romans found much to wonder at in Egyptian religion but 
nothing puzzled and shocked them more than the cult of sacred animals. 
Almost every deity was believed to be potentially embodied in particu- 
lar animals. By the end of the first millennium b.c.e., devotion to sacred 
animals had become central to popular cult, and reverence for them 
could take extreme forms. The historian Diodoros, who visited Egypt in 
60 b.c.e., saw a member of a Roman embassy torn to pieces by an en- 
raged mob because he had accidentally killed a cat. A special place in 
Egyptian religion, however, was occupied by a few animals, who were be- 
lieved to be the living incarnations of particular gods. Such creatures 
were identified by special markings and were unique. The death of one 
and the discovery of its successor after a long search were occasions of 
great rejoicing. During their lifetime, they were treated like pharaohs; 
and after their death, they were mummified and splendidly buried in great 
underground catacombs. 

The Buchis bull was one of the most celebrated of these animals. Iden- 
tified by his black face, white body with backward-growing hair, and his 
supposed ability to change color hourly like a chameleon, Buchis was be- 
lieved to be the incarnation of the solar god Montu of Hermonthis, a 


city near Thebes. Cleopatra seized the opportunity offered by the instal- 
lation of a new Buchis in 5 1 b.c.e. to secure for herself the loyalty of her 
father's Upper Egyptian supporters. Even decades later, during the reign 
of her conqueror — the Roman emperor Augustus — people remembered 
how "the Queen, the Lady of the Two Lands, the goddess who loves her 
father [Cleopatra], rowed him [Buchis] in the barque of Amun, together 
with the boats of the king, all the inhabitants of Thebes and Hermon- 
this and priests being with him." 2 

Cleopatra also secured the support of the Upper Egyptian aristocracy, 
powerful men such as Kallimakhos — the epistrategos, or governor, of the 
Thebaid, who ruled Upper Egypt as a virtual viceroy. Cleopatra's venture 
into Upper Egypt was an unqualified success, as the Thebaid remained 
loyal to her throughout her long reign, even offering to rise in her sup- 
port on the eve of Octavian's conquest of Egypt in 30 b.c.e. The center 
of political power in Ptolemaic Egypt was not, however, in the Thebaid 
but in the capital, Alexandria, whose turbulent citizen body had made 
and unmade kings for over a century. Unfortunately, Cleopatra had few 
followers in the capital. 

Although Ptolemy XII had been the Alexandrian Greeks' choice for 
king in 80 b.c.e., relations between them had become increasingly bitter 
over the course of his reign, and Cleopatra inherited their hostility. Even 
more serious, her ambitions violated the traditions of her dynasty. Ptole- 
maic queens such as Arsinoe II and Cleopatra I had wielded great influ- 
ence, but only as the consort or regent of a king. That meant that it was 
Ptolemy XIII and not Cleopatra who attracted the support of Ptolemaic 
loyalists; the most important of which were the Gabinians, who had kept 
her father in power during the final years of his reign. After his death, 
however, Cleopatra alienated them by her decision to surrender several 
Gabinians to the governor of Syria to face charges of murdering two sons 
of a prominent Roman politician. 

The sources permit only a general outline of Cleopatra's struggle for 
power. At first, Cleopatra's speed and audacity worked to her advantage. 
For the last nine months of 51 b.c.e. and the first half of 50 b.c.e., her 
ascendancy is indicated by the disappearance of the name of Ptolemy XIII 
from official documents. By the fall of 50 b.c.e., however, Cleopatra's bold 
bid for sole power had clearly failed. Severe famine throughout Egypt 
caused by a disastrously low Nile had given her enemies their chance, 
and they had seized the opportunity to undermine her strong position in 

Cleopatra's Life 17 

Upper Egypt and strengthen their hold on popular opinion in Alexan- 
dria. A decree issued in October 50 b.c.e. in the name of Ptolemy XIII 
and Cleopatra ordered merchants to divert all grain collected in Upper 
Egypt to Alexandria, and threatened violators of the edict with death. 
In desperation, Cleopatra may even have tried to find a more compli- 
ant royal husband by replacing Ptolemy XIII with her even younger 
brother, the future Ptolemy XIV. Some time in 49 b.c.e., however, she 
was forced to flee from Alexandria, taking refuge first in the Thebaid and 
then making her way to Palestine or southern Syria, where her father had 
had friends. After collecting a small army, she attempted to invade Egypt. 
Her advance was stopped at the border by the forces of her brother, how- 
ever, which held the key fortress of Pelusium, enabling them to block the 
coastal road from Sinai into Egypt. Ironically, with final defeat imminent, 
Cleopatra was saved by the unexpected reappearance of Rome as a deci- 
sive factor in Egyptian affairs. 


The struggle for power between Cleopatra and Ptolemy XIII coincided 
with the civil war between Julius Caesar and the Republican forces led 
by Ptolemy XII's patron, Pompey. Relations between Caesar and Pompey 
had deteriorated during the late 50s b.c.e. as Caesar's growing power and 
influence drove Pompey into alliance with the Senate. War had raged 
from early 49 b.c.e. until early summer 48 b.c.e., when Caesar decisively 
defeated Pompey and the senatorial forces at Pharsalus in northern 
Greece. Egypt had avoided direct involvement in the fighting, but the 
unexpected arrival in late July of ships bearing Pompey and his family at 
Pelusium with Caesar in hot pursuit threatened to drag Egypt into the 

Pompey had good reason to expect a favorable reception from Ptolemy 
XIII and his regents. He had been the patron of Ptolemy XII and was the 
guardian of his will, which legitimized the reign of his son. A year ear- 
lier, when the outcome of the civil war was still in doubt, Ptolemy XIII's 
regents had provided Pompey's son Gnaeus Pompey with sixty war ships 
for his father's fleet. The ships had stayed in port at Corcyra in western 
Greece with the rest of the Republican fleet, fortunately leaving Egypt- 
ian neutrality intact. Pompey's defeat, however, changed the situation 
fundamentally. His patronage was no longer of any value, while giving 


him sanctuary in Egypt would alienate Caesar. Expediency trumped prin- 
ciple. Hoping to win Caesar's favor, Pothinos and the other regents de- 
cided to murder Pompey. Deceived by a former officer and friend in 
Egyptian service, Pompey was stabbed to death as he was being rowed to 
shore from his flagship. Pompey's decapitated body was left exposed on 
the beach, while the regents embalmed his head for presentation to Cae- 
sar as a gift. 

The regents had badly miscalculated Caesar's reaction to Pompey's 
murder. Although Caesar had reason to be glad that his formidable rival 
had been removed from the scene without him being responsible, he af- 
fected grief and outrage when he arrived at Pelusium a few days later, 
turning away in disgust when he was presented with Pompey's head. He 
also wanted the money promised to him by Ptolemy XII in 59 b.c.e., 
which he needed for his campaigns against the remaining Republican 

Caesar made no effort to conceal the reality of Roman power over 
Egypt. He entered Alexandria like a consul visiting a subject city, de- 
claring that he was now the executor of Ptolemy XII's will. Ptolemy XIII 
and Cleopatra were ordered to disband their armies and to submit their 
dispute over the throne to his judgment in Alexandria. The daring ruse 
by which Cleopatra had one of her followers smuggle her into the royal 
palace concealed in a load of bedclothes has led to endless speculation 
concerning Caesar's response to the sudden appearance of the charming 
young queen in his bedroom and the nature of their sex during the night 
that followed. Whatever actually happened, Ptolemy XIII understandably 
felt betrayed when he saw Cleopatra seated beside Caesar the next morn- 
ing. With one audacious act, she had overcome her political eclipse and 
again gained a chance to secure her father's throne. 

Caesar's resolution of their dispute revealed the full extent of Cleopa- 
tra's success. In accordance with the will of Ptolemy XII, he forced her 
brother to again accept her as his queen and co-ruler of Egypt. In an at- 
tempt to defuse hostility among the Alexandrians to his decision, Cae- 
sar also overturned Rome's annexation of Cyprus, returning the island to 
Ptolemaic authority and appointing as its rulers Cleopatra's other siblings, 
the future Ptolemy XIV and her remaining sister, Arsinoe. 

There was a large element of bluff in Caesar's bold entry into Alexan- 
dria and assumption of power. In his haste to overtake Pompey, he had 
taken with him only ten Rhodian warships and four thousand troops, 

Cleopatra's Life 19 

leaving the rest of his army behind in Greece. His audacity had tem- 
porarily defused opposition, but he underestimated both the sensitivity 
of the Alexandrian Greeks to any show of Roman power because of the 
humiliations they had experienced during the 50s b.c.e. and the astute- 
ness of Ptolemy XIII's regency council. Once his enemies recognized Cae- 
sar's weakness, they besieged him in the royal palace. 

Although the Alexandrian War receives little attention in Roman his- 
tory, Caesar never came so close to death as during the battle for Alexan- 
dria. Caesar faced the classic nightmare of urban warfare. The guerilla 
tactics of the Alexandrian Greeks continually harassed him, while 
Ptolemy XIII's army advanced on the city. Battles raged around the har- 
bor. Much of the area was destroyed by fire, including facilities connected 
to the famous Alexandrian library. Caesar once escaped certain death 
only by swimming from a sinking warship to safety. The nightmare ended 
in January 47 b.c.e., when a relieving army arrived in Egypt and lifted 
the siege. 

Caesar's victory was also Cleopatra's victory. She had hitched her fate 
to Caesar's star when she made her theatrical appearance in his bedroom. 
She had remained loyally by his side in the palace throughout the siege, 
and she survived to enjoy the rewards of her loyalty. Cleopatra had al- 
ready had the satisfaction of seeing the death of her principal enemies — 
Ptolemy XIII, who had been killed in battle, and Pothinos and the other 
leaders of his regency council, who had been executed on Caesar's or- 
ders. Her sister, Arsinoe, who had succeeded Ptolemy XIII as leader of 
the resistance to Caesar, was a prisoner, facing the humiliation of march- 
ing in Caesar's triumph whenever he finally returned to Rome. Cleopa- 
tra received her reward when Caesar appointed her and her ten-year-old 
brother, Ptolemy XIV, joint rulers of Egypt. 

After almost four years of bitter struggle, Cleopatra had won. Although 
she was officially only the consort and queen of another of her brothers, 
Ptolemy XIV was only a figurehead without a regency council to protect 
his interests. Equally important, their marriage also reunited Egypt and 
Cyprus for the first time since 80 b.c.e., when it had been separated from 
Egypt, becoming an independent kingdom ruled by her father's unfortu- 
nate brother. Its reunification with Egypt marked the first step toward the 
achievement of what would be the major goal of Cleopatra's reign: the 
re-creation of the empire once ruled by her ancestors. 

Cleopatra and Caesar celebrated their separate victories with a luxu- 


rious cruise up the Nile during which her subjects observed both their 
queen and the Roman protector who made her power possible. The Nile 
cruise was a brief but pleasant interlude. By the end of January 47 b.c.e., 
Caesar had left Egypt for Asia Minor to deal with an uprising in Pontus, 
leaving Cleopatra behind, pregnant with his son Caesarion. 

Caesar also left in Egypt a strong occupation force of four legions, 
twenty thousand troops. Its stated purpose was to protect Cleopatra and 
her brother, who still lacked popular support in Alexandria. However, 
the staff officer who wrote a contemporary history of the Alexandrian 
War reveals that Caesar's real intentions for these troops were more com- 
plex, noting, "he considered . . . that the monarchs should be safeguarded 
by a garrison of our troops, if they remained loyal, while if they proved 
ungrateful, they could be coerced by this same garrison. 3 Caesar had made 
Cleopatra queen of Egypt, but she was on probation. She still had to 
prove herself to him. 

Cleopatra and Caesar would not see each other again for over a year. 
Much happened in the interval, but the sources provide few details. Two 
events, however, stand out. The first was Cleopatra's decision to begin 
construction of the Caesareum near the harbor at Alexandria, a huge 
temple in mixed Egyptian and Greek style devoted to the worship of Cae- 
sar. It would be a perpetual reminder to the Alexandrians and to all who 
visited Alexandria of the personal link between her and Caesar and his 
support for her regime. The other was the birth on June 23, 47 b.c.e., of 
her son Caesarion, who embodied her hopes for the continuation of her 
dynasty. Following the lead of her father, who had himself deified as the 
living incarnation of Dionysos, Cleopatra celebrated the birth of Cae- 
sarion by identifying him with the god Horus, whom Egyptians believed 
was incarnate in every king, and herself with the goddess Isis — Horus's 
mother and the wife of Osiris, the king of the dead. Coins struck on 
Cyprus in 47 b.c.e. show Cleopatra with the attributes of Isis and 
Aphrodite nursing the infant Caesarion. 

Early in 46 b.c.e., Cleopatra visited Rome with her husband, Ptolemy 
XIV, at the invitation of Caesar, who housed them across the Tiber in 
his suburban estate in present day Trastevere. 4 Her visit was brief and the 
results mixed. The highlight was certainly Caesar persuading the Senate 
to reward her loyalty by granting her and her brother the status of allied 
kings and friends of the Roman people. Less satisfactory for her was Cae- 
sar's spectacular triumph for his victories over Gaul, Egypt, Pontus, and 

Cleopatra's Life 21 

Mauretania in July 46 b.c.e. The Roman populace's unexpected sympa- 
thy at the pathetic spectacle of her sister, Arsinoe, loaded with chains in 
the triumphal procession induced Caesar to spare her life, sentencing her 
instead to exile in the famous Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. As long as 
Arsinoe was alive, she was a threat to Cleopatra's plans. Still, when 
Cleopatra returned to Egypt later that summer, she could be satisfied with 
the results of her first visit to Rome. Caesar had not denied that Cae- 
sarion was their child, and he had confirmed the independence of Egypt 
that her father had struggled so hard to achieve. 

Cleopatra was back in Rome together with Caesarion a little over a 
year later. The reason for her second trip to Rome is unknown. She may 
have hoped to gain formal recognition from Caesar of his paternity of 
Caesarion. Attitudes toward her in Rome had hardened significantly 
since her last visit, however. Political unrest over Caesar's autocratic rule 
was rapidly increasing, and the presence of Cleopatra and her son added 
fuel to the fire. Beneficial reforms — such as Caesar's replacement of the 
hopelessly inefficient Roman lunar calendar with the Egyptian solar cal- 
endar we still use today — and unprecedented honors — such as placing a 
statue of Cleopatra in the temple of his divine ancestress Venus Genetrix 
(Venus the mother) — caused equal offense. Rumors abounded that Cae- 
sar was seeking legislation to allow him to marry the Egyptian queen as 
part of a plan to move the capital of the empire from Rome to Alexan- 
dria. His sudden assassination on March 15, 44 b.c.e., and the turmoil at 
Rome that followed made her understandably insecure. By mid-April, 
Cleopatra and Caesarion had left Rome for Egypt. 

44-41 b.c.e. 

Caesar's assassination opened a period of upheaval in Rome. Within 
a year, hostilities had broken out throughout the empire between Cae- 
sar's heirs and their supporters and the Republican forces led by his as- 
sassins, Brutus and Cassius. Cleopatra faced particularly difficult choices 
in the new situation. Her personal history would have led her to side 
with the Caesarian faction in the coming civil war. However, the suspi- 
cions of his grandnephew and heir Octavian, who viewed Caesarion as 
a potential rival, made her cautious. Meanwhile Cassius' occupation of 
Syria and alliance with the Iranian empire of Parthia threatened Egypt's 


security from outside, while famine — the Nile flood was disastrously low 
in both 43 and 42 b.c.e. — and plague undermined the internal stability 
of the kingdom. Last but not least, Ptolemy XIV was growing up and 
might assert his claim to rule at any time. 

Cleopatra responded vigorously and effectively to these challenges. 
She first neutralized potential opposition in Egypt. Shortly after her re- 
turn to Alexandria in summer 44 b.c.e., Cleopatra had Caesarion pro- 
claimed king as Ptolemy Caesarion Theos Philopator and Philometor 
(the god, who loves his father and his mother). About the same time, 
Ptolemy XIV died mysteriously. Rumor accused Cleopatra — probably cor- 
rectly — of poisoning him. Whatever the truth of the charge, the reality 
was that with her husband dead and her infant son as her co-regent, 
Cleopatra's hold on power was finally secure. Her efforts earlier in the 
decade to build political support in Egypt also bore fruit. Aggressive ef- 
forts to provide food to the suffering Egyptian population by her sup- 
porters in Upper Egypt such as Kallimakhos, the powerful governor of 
the Thebaid, combined with Cleopatra's own relief efforts in Alexandria 
prevented serious unrest during the famine years of the late 40s b.c.e. Se- 
curity in Egypt also strengthened Cleopatra's hand in dealing with the 
mounting external threats to her kingdom. 

Although Cleopatra's sympathies lay with the Caesarians, the welfare 
of Egypt depended on her avoiding being drawn into the hostilities that 
broke out in 43 b.c.e. She tried, therefore, to assist the forces of the Sec- 
ond Triumvirate without attracting the wrath of the Republicans. It was 
a delicate diplomatic dance, and the results were uneven. Cleopatra 
turned over the four legions Caesar had left in Egypt in 48 b.c.e. to the 
triumviral general Dolabella's representative. As a reward for her loyalty, 
the triumvirs recognized Caesarion as Cleopatra's co-ruler. 

Cassius, however, seized control of the four legions before they could 
join the main triumviral forces in Europe, leaving Cleopatra facing a se- 
rious military threat on Egypt's northeast frontier. Her plea that famine 
and plague prevented her from actively supporting Cassius only encour- 
aged his dream of invading Egypt. Her vulnerability was increased still 
further by the defection to Cassius of Serapion, her governor of Cyprus. 
Only Brutus' summons of Cassius to the Balkans in 42 b.c.e. to prepare 
for the upcoming battle with the triumvirs saved Egypt from invasion and 
certain defeat. Freed from the threat of invasion, Cleopatra finally joined 
openly the Caesarian cause, personally leading a large fleet to Greece. 

Cleopatra's Life 23 

Unfortunately, a storm destroyed most of her ships at sea, forcing Cleopa- 
tra to return to Egypt without aiding the triumvirs in the campaign that 
ended at the Battle of Philippi, with the decisive defeat of the Republi- 
can cause and the death of Brutus and Cassius. 

(41-37 b.c.e.) 

Cleopatra, therefore, had reason for concern, when Mark Antony or- 
dered her to come to Tarsus in southern Turkey in 41 b.c.e. to answer 
charges that she had aided Cassius. By itself, her plea that Cassius had 
threatened Egypt and that a storm had frustrated her attempt to support 
the triumvirs was weak. Cleopatra did, however, know Antony and, more 
important, his weaknesses and how to take advantage of them. 

Roman legend claimed that the fifteen-year old Cleopatra first met and 
charmed Antony when he was a dashing cavalry officer in Gabinius' 
army, which returned Ptolemy XII to power, but this is unlikely. She 
would certainly have met him during her visits to Rome — especially in 
44 b.c.e., when Antony served as Caesar's consul and chief aide — and 
become familiar with his personality, in which great courage and sensu- 
ality mingled with his strong belief in his personal descent from Herak- 
les. Antony's belief in his closeness to the divine was further enhanced 
when the priests of Artemis of Ephesus proclaimed him the living incar- 
nation of Dionysos shortly before his epochal meeting with Cleopatra in 
41 B.C.E. 

Cleopatra made good use of her knowledge of Antony's personality. 
Instead of playing the part of a humble suppliant like other eastern rulers 
and dynasts, she boldly assumed the role of the Egyptian royal goddess 
Isis in the guise of the Greek goddess Aphrodite coming to visit her hus- 
band Osiris in his manifestation as Dionysos. The Greek biographer 
Plutarch's brilliant description of this spectacular extravaganza has fo- 
cused attention on the night of banqueting and sex that followed their 
meeting instead of the hard political bargaining that took place during 
and after it. 

Mark Antony was at the peak of his prestige and power when he and 
Cleopatra met at Tarsus. As the senior member of the Second Triumvi- 
rate and the chief architect of its victory at the Battle of Philippi, he far 
overshadowed Octavian and Marcus Lepidus. Antony used his preemi- 


nence to take for himself the choicest parts of the Roman Empire: Gaul 
and, especially, the eastern Mediterranean, with its rich provinces and 
client kingdoms. During his trip to Tarsus, he rewrote the political map 
of the region, rewarding those astute enough to join the winning side in 
time and levying heavy financial penalties on the less perceptive. Dom- 
inance of Rome's eastern territories, however, also brought with it the 
challenge of dealing with Parthia. 

Masters of an empire that stretched from Mesopotamia to the borders 
of India, the Parthians had crushed an invading Roman army in 54 b.c.e. 
led by Marcus Crassus, at the Battle of Carrhae. During the recent war, 
the Parthians had been allies of Cassius and a small Parthian contingent 
had even fought on the Republican side at Philippi. Caesar had been 
preparing a grand expedition against Parthia at the time of his death in 
44 b.c.e. For Antony, the temptation to assume Caesar's mantle, avenge 
Crassus, secure Rome's eastern frontier, and win glory equal to that of 
Alexander the Great was too tempting to pass up. 

The support of Egypt — the largest and wealthiest of Rome's client 
states — and her queen was essential to the success of Antony's plans. 
Antony, therefore, accepted Cleopatra's claim that Serapion, her gover- 
nor of Cyprus, had acted on his own in aiding Cassius. Cleopatra, for her 
part, willingly accepted the opportunity offered her by Antony, surren- 
dering Serapion for execution and demanding only the execution of her 
sister, Arsinoe — who had lived under the protection of the goddess 
Artemis at Ephesus since 46 b.c.e. — and the death of a young man who 
had been wandering through Syria and Palestine claiming to be Ptolemy 
XIII, miraculously saved from the Battle of the Nile. 

Cleopatra's personal diplomacy had been a brilliant success. She had 
dodged the bullet that threatened her, eliminated her last potential rival, 
and found a powerful new patron and protector in Antony. Cleopatra 
celebrated her escape by inviting Antony to spend the winter of 40 b.c.e. 
with her in Egypt. As usual, the sources treat Antony's decision to go to 
Egypt instead of confronting Parthian raiders in Syria as evidence of his 
growing enslavement by Cleopatra. In support, they cite Antony and 
Cleopatra's formation of a social club called the Society of Inimitable 
Livers and their extravagant and riotous parties. Cleopatra's cook is re- 
ported to have claimed that every meal had to be perfect for the mem- 
bers of the society, and that he had to prepare huge amounts of food for 
even the smallest party in case some dish became spoiled. 

Cleopatra's Life 2,5 

The reality of Antony's long stay in Egypt was different. He delegated 
dealing with the Parthian raids to his subordinates, who defeated and 
drove them back across the Euphrates. Meanwhile, Antony courted the 
support of the Alexandrian Greeks, carefully avoiding Caesar's mistakes 
by eschewing all signs of Roman authority and wearing Greek dress in 
public. At the same time, Cleopatra spared no effort in encouraging his 
plans for an invasion of Parthia. Before they could put their plans into 
effect, however, events in Italy forced Antony to return to the west in 
40 b.c.e., leaving Cleopatra pregnant with twins, whom she named 
Alexander the Sun (Helios) and Cleopatra the Moon (Selene). The 
twin's names revealed Cleopatra's hope that her alliance would help 
Antony repeat the glorious achievements of Alexander the Great by con- 
quering the new Iranian empire of Parthia. 

Three years would pass before they saw each other again. Much 
changed in that interval. Open warfare between the forces of Octavian 
and those of Antony had only been averted by difficult negotiations in 
which Antony agreed to marry Octavian 's sister Octavia. He also con- 
ceded to Octavian control of Italy and the provinces of Spain and Gaul. 
Antony's marriage kept the peace for the time being, but he desperately 
needed a major military success to counter Octavian's growing power in 
the west. 

While Antony's superiority over Octavian was declining, Cleopatra's 
position in Egypt was gradually improving. The details are lost, but the 
extensive program of temple and monument building Cleopatra under- 
took in Upper Egypt and Alexandria in honor of herself and Caesarion 
indicates that she took advantage of her kingdom's recovery from the 
famine and plague years of the late 40s b.c.e. to build support for her 
regime in the traditional pharaonic manner. With her hold on Egypt se- 
cure, Cleopatra's position was much stronger when Antony summoned 
her to Antioch to discuss his planned invasion of Parthia than it had 
been at the time of their first meeting at Tarsus four years earlier. 

The ancient sources rightly point to the renewal of Cleopatra's affair 
with Antony as one of the main results of her stay at Antioch during the 
fall of 37 b.c.e. and the winter of 36 b.c.e. Cleopatra won Antony's recog- 
nition of Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene as his children; and 
when she returned to Egypt the next spring, she was pregnant again with 
his child. Cleopatra also achieved major political successes at Antioch. 
In preparation for the Parthian expedition, Antony carried out the most 


extensive reorganization of the Roman east since the 60s b.c.e., reward- 
ing loyal client kings and removing those suspected of Parthian sympa- 
thies. As ruler of the largest and most important client kingdom, 
Cleopatra emerged as the big winner in the process. In addition to con- 
firming her authority over Cyprus, Antony put under Egyptian rule an 
enormous swath of territory, including the island of Crete, Kyrene in 
modern Libya, numerous cities in Phoenicia, Syria and Cilicia in south- 
ern Turkey, and the Arab kingdom of Iturea in northern Palestine. 

Not for over a century had Egyptian power extended so far. Cleopatra 
presided over an empire almost as large as that of her great third-century 
b.c.e. ancestors. She treated the concessions of Antioch as the beginning 
of a new era. On her return to Egypt, she announced that a new era of 
greatness had begun in 37 b.c.e., and assumed two new titles to celebrate 
Egypt's renewed empire. The first, Thea Neotera (the younger goddess), 
recalled her ancestress Cleopatra Thea, the daughter of Ptolemy VI, who 
had reigned over many of these territories a century earlier as the wife of 
three Seleukid monarchs. Her other title, Philopatris (the lover of her 
country), affirmed her devotion to Egypt and its welfare. Finally, by nam- 
ing the son she bore later in 36 b.c.e. Ptolemy Philadelphos, Cleopatra 
honored the greatest of her ancestors and the founder of her dynasty's 
imperial greatness. 

Not surprisingly, Antony's detractors in Rome viewed the concessions 
of Antioch as further evidence of his enslavement by Cleopatra. The 
truth was otherwise. Coins minted in various cities and given to Egypt 
bore images of both Cleopatra and Antony with Roman military titles, 
emphasizing that he had acted in his capacity as a Roman official in ex- 
panding Egyptian authority in the Near East. In addition, Cleopatra did 
not gain all that she wished from Antony. Control over Judaea — lost to 
Ptolemaic authority since 197 b.c.e. — was essential to connect her new 
possessions to Egypt; but Antony had recognized Herod the Great as king 
of Judaea in 41 b.c.e., and he steadfastly refused to strip Herod of his 
kingdom despite all of Cleopatra's pleas and intrigues against the Jewish 
monarch in the years after 37 b.c.e. She had to be content with a piece 
of the kingdom of the Nabataean Arabs south of Judaea and some valu- 
able balsam groves near the ancient city of Jericho, which she leased back 
to Herod for a high fee. 

The concessions of Antioch marked the high point of Cleopatra's 
reign. As her failure to move Antony on Judaea revealed, however, 

Cleopatra's Life 27 

Cleopatra's hold on her new territories was precarious. Although Cleopa- 
tra had re-created the empire of her great third-century ancestors, she 
ruled it at the pleasure of Rome as represented by Antony. Should she 
lose his favor, all would be lost. Preventing that from happening obsessed 
Cleopatra during the final years of her reign. 

THE FINAL YEARS: 36-30 b.c.e. 

If Cleopatra were to maintain control of her new empire, it was es- 
sential that Antony retain his primacy in the Second Triumvirate, which 
required that he win a great victory against the Parthians. Unfortunately 
for Cleopatra, the long-planned-for Parthian campaign ended in total 

At first, everything seemed to be going well. Preparations for the cam- 
paign were on a grand scale. Antony collected an army of almost a hun- 
dred thousand troops — including sixteen legions of infantry and ten 
thousand cavalry — and arranged alliances with the kings of Armenia and 
Media. The grand army left Syria in May 36 b.c.e., and penetrated deeply 
into Parthian territory, only to fritter away its early success in an unsuc- 
cessful siege of Phraaspa, the Parthian capital, that lasted into October, 
when Antony decided to return to Roman territory. Harsh winter 
weather, Parthian harassment, and the treachery of Antony's Armenian 
and Median allies transformed the retreat into a nightmare. 

Antony displayed all of his courage and his superb leadership qualities 
during the long retreat. By the time the army reached the security of 
Syria, Antony had lost more than thirty thousand men — over a third of 
his force. The magnitude of the military and political disaster he had suf- 
fered was obvious to all, especially since at almost the same time, Octa- 
vian ended the last vestiges of the civil war by decisively defeating the 
forces of Sextus Pompey at Cape Naulochus in Sicily. Although Antony 
still had almost twenty-five legions under his command, he had lost the 
initiative to Octavian and would never regain it. As a result, the failure 
of the great Parthian expedition opened a period of unprecedented dan- 
ger for Cleopatra and her family that would only end with her death five 
years later in 30 b.c.e. 

The decline in Antony's political fortunes made itself felt immediately. 
Octavian consolidated his power in the west by stripping Lepidus of his 
remaining territories without consulting Antony. He also broke his prom- 


ise to provide twenty-thousand troops for the Parthian campaign, send- 
ing Antony instead some ships captured from Sextus Pompey and a mere 
two thousand soldiers, who were to be brought to Antony by his wife Oc- 
tavia. Faced with public humiliation by Octavian, Antony responded 
with defiance. On reaching Athens, Octavia received a message order- 
ing her to return to Rome but to send the soldiers to Egypt. 

The ancient sources, hostile as always to Cleopatra, describe in vivid 
detail the wiles she used to force a breach between Antony and his wife. 
The stories may even be true, but little persuasion was needed. Antony's 
marriage to Octavia had been a marriage of political convenience, and 
the rapidly deteriorating relations between Antony and Octavian 
stripped it of any value. Indeed, if Antony had allowed Octavia to pro- 
ceed to Alexandria with the paltry force of soldiers Octavian had sent 
with her, he would have publicly admitted his inferiority to his brother- 
in-law. The redistribution of power within the Second Triumvirate had 
forced Antony and Cleopatra together; it was their only hope of survival. 

Even as Octavian was consolidating his power in Italy and the west, 
Cleopatra and Antony were to enjoy one last moment of glory. The king 
of the Medes fell out with the Parthians over the division of the spoils 
from Antony's failed campaign and signaled a willingness to switch sides 
and support Rome in a future invasion of Parthia. When the king of Ar- 
menia refused Antony's offer of an alliance that would be sealed by a 
marriage between Alexander Helios and his daughter, Antony invaded 
Armenia in the spring of 34 b.c.e. 

Cleopatra accompanied the army to the Euphrates and then returned 
to Egypt, stopping at Jerusalem on the way. Herod would claim later in 
his memoirs that Cleopatra tried to seduce him while he gallantly refused 
to follow the advice of his council and murder her when he had the 
chance. Whatever the truth of Herod's self-serving claims, nothing un- 
toward happened, and Cleopatra left Judaea after a brief stay. Antony, 
meanwhile, achieved a complete victory in Armenia, capturing the king 
and most of his family, and bringing them back to Egypt as prisoners. 

Antony's conquest of Armenia was the occasion for the last great royal 
spectacle staged in Alexandria. Wearing a crown of ivy and carrying a 
thyrsos as befitted the living incarnation of Dionysos, Antony entered 
Alexandria and presented his army and his royal prisoners, who were 
bound in golden chains, to Cleopatra. The ceremony reached its climax 
in the great gymnasium of Alexandria, where Cleopatra and her chil- 

Cleopatra's Life 29 

dren, seated on gold thrones on a silver stage, received from Antony rule 
over the Roman east and the territories Antony planned to conquer. 

Armenia and Parthia were assigned to Alexander Helios, who ap- 
peared dressed in the garb of the Persian kings of old. Ptolemy 
Philadelphos received all Roman territory from Egypt to the Hellespont, 
while Caesarion was recognized as the legitimate son of Julius Caesar with 
the title King of Kings. Cleopatra Selene received Kyrenaika and part of 
Crete. Finally, Cleopatra was proclaimed Queen of Kings and ruler of 
Egypt. Coins issued at Alexandria in honor of these events celebrated 
Antony as the conqueror of Armenia and Cleopatra as "Queen of Kings, 
whose sons are kings," and as "Queen and the Youngest Goddess." Al- 
though Antony still retained his position as triumvir, the donations of 
Alexandria leave no doubt that he dreamed of something far more 
grandiose, nothing less than to re-create for Rome the empire of Alexan- 
der the Great with Cleopatra and their children as his partners in its rule, 
but it was not to be. 

Octavian exploited news of the donations of Alexandria to launch a 
fierce propaganda offensive against Antony. Octavian minimized the sig- 
nificance of Antony's conquest of Armenia, while condemning him for 
betraying Roman tradition by celebrating a triumph in Alexandria in- 
stead of Rome and illegally granting territory belonging to the Roman 
people to Cleopatra and her children. Antony responded in kind, accus- 
ing Octavian of treachery and debauchery. One casualty of the increas- 
ingly bitter feud was Antony's wife, Octavia. Antony took the initiative 
in severing the last link between him and Octavian, sending Octavia a 
notice of divorce and summarily ordering her to vacate his house in 
Rome. Marriage to Cleopatra quickly followed, thereby publicly sealing 
his alliance with the Egyptian queen and his defiance of Octavian. 

Both sides began to prepare openly for war in 32 b.c.e. With bitter 
memories of the recent civil wars fresh in the minds of Romans, Octa- 
vian studiously ignored Antony, treating him merely as the slave of 
Cleopatra's lust for power. Octavian even seized Antony's will from the 
custody of the vestal virgins. Once in possession of the will, Octavian re- 
vealed to an outraged Senate that in it not only did Antony reaffirm the 
gifts of Roman territory he had given Cleopatra and assert that Caesar- 
ion was Caesar's son, but that his subservience to Cleopatra was so great 
that he had even provided that if he died in Rome his body was to be 
taken to Alexandria for burial. Rumors that Cleopatra's favorite oath was 


"when I give judgment on the Capitol" in Rome further heightened hos- 
tility toward her. War was declared, therefore, on Cleopatra, whom Oc- 
tavian portrayed as an enemy of Rome on the scale of the great 
Carthaginian general Hannibal. Not everyone, of course, was deceived 
by Octavian's propaganda. Both consuls for the year 32 b.c.e. and over 
two hundred Senators — almost a quarter of the Senate — joined Antony 
and Cleopatra in Egypt. The final struggle for the legacy of Julius Caesar 
had begun, and on its outcome hinged the fate of Cleopatra and her dy- 

Cleopatra played a prominent role when hostilities actually began in 
31 b.c.e., commanding the Egyptian fleet in person and participating 
openly in Antony's war council. Antony's Roman supporters pleaded 
with him to send her back to Egypt, pointing out the credence her pres- 
ence with the army gave to Octavian's propaganda. Antony rejected their 
advice, however. Cleopatra's ships formed the core of his fleet, and it was 
her wealth that paid his troops. Some of his Asian allies may even have 
seen in her the agent of their revenge for all the suffering brought on 
them by almost a century of Roman oppression. 5 

On paper, Cleopatra and Antony's chances for victory were good. 
Their enormous forces — five hundred warships and thirty legions plus 
auxiliaries — were superior to those of their enemies. Antony, however, 
repeated Pompey's mistake of 48 b.c.e. by choosing to fight a defensive 
campaign in Greece instead of carrying the war to Octavian in Italy Oc- 
tavian and his brilliant general Marcus Agrippa took full advantage of 
the opportunity afforded them by Antony's strategy, and by late summer 
31 b.c.e., Antony's naval forces were blockaded in the bay of Actium in 
western Greece. 

The Battle of Actium on September 2, 31 b.c.e. was the last major 
naval battle of antiquity. Over six hundred ships took part. The Roman 
poet Virgil treated it in the Aeneid — Rome's national epic — as a clash of 
civilizations in which Octavian and the Roman gods preserved Italy from 
conquest by Cleopatra and the barbaric animal-headed gods of Egypt. Oc- 
tavian celebrated his victory by founding a city named Nicopolis (vic- 
tory city) at Actium and displaying thirty-six metal rams from the ships 
captured or sunk in the battle on a great monument built on the site of 
his camp, whose ruins have recently been discovered. The truth was less 
glorious. Although her enemies claimed that Cleopatra cravenly aban- 
doned Antony at the height of the battle, the fact that their ships put 

Cleopatra's Life 31 

to sea with their sails on board instead of left onshore as was usual in 
battle indicates that they had decided to try to save their fleet by break- 
ing Octavian's blockade. As it turned out, only the Egyptian fleet and 
some of Antony's other ships succeeded in escaping. The rest surrendered, 
as did most of Antony's army in Greece soon afterward. 

It was almost a year before Octavian's army entered Alexandria in Au- 
gust 30 b.c.e. During the interval, Antony fell into a deep depression, 
while Cleopatra struck out at suspected enemies, executing the king of 
Armenia and his family as well as prominent members of the Alexan- 
drian aristocracy who roused her suspicions. A plan to escape to India 
ended in failure, when the Nabataeans, some of whose territory she had 
acquired from Antony in 37 b.c.e., took their revenge by sinking her 
ships as they emerged from the old canal that Ptolemy II had built to 
link the Nile to the Red Sea. She and Antony reconstituted their old so- 
ciety of Inimitable Livers as the club of Those Who Will Die Together 
as the Roman armies advanced on Egypt. In the end, she barricaded her- 
self and her treasure in her tomb in Alexandria to await the end. 

Behind the scenes, however, Cleopatra conducted feverish negotia- 
tions with Octavian, most likely about her ultimate fate and, especially, 
that of her family. Even if she couldn't secure her own life, Cleopatra 
may have hoped to persuade Octavian to allow Caesarion to rule Egypt 
as a client king. Certainly, it was to that end that she rebuffed offers by 
her Upper Egyptian supporters to fight against the Romans. Ancient and 
some modern historians have even suggested that she was the source of 
the rumor of her death that drove Antony to suicide, although that is 
unlikely. Octavian allowed her to bury Antony, but a personal meeting 
with him seems to have disabused Cleopatra of any hope of a reprieve. 
If she lived, Octavian intended to take her to Rome to march in his tri- 
umph as her sister Arsinoe had done in that of Julius Caesar sixteen years 
earlier. With all hope gone, Cleopatra committed suicide on August 12, 
30 B.C.E. 

The manner of Cleopatra's death has mystified historians since antiq- 
uity. The familiar story that she died of the bite of a snake first appeared 
in a tableau showing her being bitten by a cobra that Octavian displayed 
in his triumph in 27 b.c.e. No trace of a snake was found at the time of 
her death, however, and it is difficult to imagine how a cobra could have 
been smuggled in to her, or how one snake could have been responsible 
for her death and that of the two female servants who died with her. It 


is more likely that they all took some kind of poison. She was thirty-nine 
years old. However it happened, her suicide may have saved the lives of 
at least some of her children. 

Nothing could have saved Caesarion, since his claim to be a son of 
Julius Caesar made him a potential threat to Octavian. Betrayed by his 
tutor while trying to escape to Nubia, he was brought back to Alexan- 
dria and executed. Cleopatra's other children, however, survived, and 
were raised by Antony's former wife, Octavia. Cleopatra Selene even 
grew up to become a queen herself, marrying Juba II, the king of Mau- 
retania in North Africa. Their son Ptolemy succeeded his father and 
ruled his kingdom until he was executed in 40 c.e. by the Roman em- 
peror Caligula. His death finally ended the long line of Ptolemies, whose 
glory Cleopatra had struggled so hard to reestablish. 


Ptolemaic Egypt: 

How Did It 


The recent discovery of a papyrus with a sample of Cleopatra's hand- 
writing created a sensation. Although she had written only one word — 
ginestho, "let it be so" — at the end of the document, the document is of 
great interest because it provides historians with a rare glimpse of Cleopa- 
tra at work. After all, her glamorous affairs with Julius Caesar and Mark 
Antony occupied only a relatively small part of her long reign in com- 
parison to the time she spent as queen of Egypt. 

The papyrus contains a royal decree with a subscription in Cleopatra's 
own handwriting ordering that it be enforced. The decree was issued in 
February 33 b.c.e. and instructs government officials to ensure that priv- 
ileges awarded by Cleopatra to a member of a Roman senatorial family 
named Quintus Cascellius be honored. According to the decree, Cascel- 
lius was granted the right to export substantial amounts of grain from 
Egypt and import wine tax-free. In addition, his lands were also to be 
tax-free, and his tenants — together with their work animals and the Nile 
boats he used to transport his grain and wine — were to be exempt from 
government service. 

Cleopatra's purpose in issuing this decree was obviously to encourage 
the loyalty of a member of a distinguished Roman family. Unfortunately, 
we do not know if she was successful. The decree does, however, reveal 
her at work doing the unglamorous but essential business of governing 
Egypt: reviewing public documents, providing for their transmission to 
the appropriate offices, and ensuring that their provisions were enforced. 
Except for the fact that Cascellius was a Roman, nothing distinguishes 
this decree from the innumerable other such documents Cleopatra must 
have dictated, reviewed, and subscribed during her reign. As the docu- 


merit's editor noted, for Cleopatra to fulfill these duties, "she would have 
had to work round the clock." 1 

Many of these duties were religious. As pharaoh, she and her prede- 
cessors played an active role in the religious life of Egypt, fulfilling the 
Egyptian king's traditional duty of performing the rituals and ceremonies 
believed necessary to ensure the survival not only of Egypt but of the 
world itself. Similarly, in their capacity as successors of Alexander the 
Great as Macedonian kings, they also officiated at the numerous festivals 
and sacrifices in honor of the Greek gods that were celebrated at Alexan- 
dria. Other duties were ceremonial, such as greeting subjects, receiving 
petitions, welcoming ambassadors, and appointing officials to office. The 
bulk of a monarch's time, however, was occupied by duties that were in- 
visible to his or her subjects but essential to the governance of Egypt, 
namely, those connected with the position of head of government. Until 
relatively recently, however, the details of the Ptolemaic government of 
Egypt were almost unknown. 


Discovering how the Ptolemies actually governed Egypt is one of the 
great achievements of modern historical research. It required the efforts 
of historians from many countries during the late nineteenth and twen- 
tieth centuries and even the creation of a whole new science known as 
papyrology. This effort was necessary because of a fundamental difference 
in the goals of ancient and modern historiography. While modern histo- 
rians believe all subjects can be treated historically, ancient historians 
aimed to tell stories of action. The result was a narrow focus on political 
and military history. 

Today, social history, economic history, or administrative history are 
the subjects of whole subdisciplines of history. In antiquity, however, they 
were not considered suitable topics for historical works. Except for the 
occasional anecdote that might throw light on the character of a king or 
queen, therefore, Greek and Roman historians ignored these subjects in 
their works. The discovery by archaeologists of documents — such as the 
decree for Cascellius — written on a variety of materials — stone inscrip- 
tions, ostraka (pieces of broken pottery), and especially papyrus — has 
filled this gap and revealed the nature of the government of Egypt under 
the Ptolemies. 

Ptolemaic Egypt: How Did It Work? 35 

Throughout most of antiquity, papyrus was the standard writing ma- 
terial in Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean basin. It was a paperlike 
material made from strips cut from the papyrus reed, and provided an ex- 
cellent medium for writing, but one whose long-term survival required 
that it be protected from damp, mold, and other threats. Only the dry 
desert climate of Egypt has allowed papyrus documents to survive in sub- 
stantial numbers. Ancient papyri first began to reach Europe in the eigh- 
teenth century c.e. It was only with the beginnings of systematic 
excavation of Egyptian sites in the nineteenth century c.e., however, that 
large numbers of papyri were discovered, and their significance as sources 
for Egyptian history was recognized. 

While papyri have restored to us many lost literary works — such as 
poems of the Greek poetess Sappho — and have provided valuable infor- 
mation about the whole range of the lives of the inhabitants of Ptole- 
maic Egypt, they are particularly informative about the multifarious 
activities of the Ptolemaic government of Egypt. Administrative organi- 
zation and policy, tax collection, religious affairs, and legal proceedings 
are all illuminated by papyri. Moreover, since the Egyptian populace en- 
countered representatives of the Ptolemaic government on an almost 
daily basis, this rich documentation provides us with snapshots of the 
Ptolemaic government at work, from the royal court to the smallest 
Egyptian village. 

Most but not all papyri are written in Greek and document the lives 
of the privileged Greek minority in Ptolemaic Egypt. Although detailed 
study of the numerous Demotic (vernacular Egyptian) papyri has barely 
begun, it has already made clear that despite the influx of Greeks, the 
Egyptian way of life, legal system, and religious institutions all endured 
and even flourished in Ptolemaic Egypt. Unfortunately, while papyri have 
done much to compensate for the deficiencies of the literary sources for 
the history of Cleopatra and her dynasty, their evidence is often incom- 
plete and hard to interpret. 

The problem is that there are significant gaps in the papyrological ev- 
idence. The first and most serious gap is the almost total lack of papyri 
from Alexandria, the capital of Ptolemaic Egypt, because the high water 
table in the area has destroyed them. The vast majority of papyri have 
been discovered instead in Middle and Upper Egypt, particularly in the 
waste dumps and cemeteries of the new towns and villages the Ptolemies 
founded for Greek immigrants in the depression west of the Nile known 


as the Fayum. The result is that we see the Ptolemaic government only 
as it is reflected in the provinces; it is as if historians were trying to an- 
alyze the government of the United States based only on evidence from 
rural Kansas. Chance has also played a large role in determining what 
periods and topics historians can study with the aid of papyri. 

A good example is provided by a famous and informative batch of pa- 
pyri found at the site of Tebtunis in the Fayum. During excavations there 
in 1900 for the University of California, Berkeley, and the Hearst Foun- 
dation, Egyptian workmen discovered a cemetery full of mummified croc- 
odiles. One of the workmen, furious because there was no reward for 
mummified crocodiles, savagely hacked open one of the crocodiles, re- 
vealing that it was filled with papyri from the second and first centuries 
b.c.e. The papyri turned out to be discarded records from the office of a 
royal scribe named Menches and provided invaluable information about 
both the duties of royal scribes and the village of Kerkeosiris in which 
Menches lived and worked. If that workman had not become so frus- 
trated at his "bad luck," historians would lack the most important extant 
body of evidence for studying the life of an Egyptian village in Ptolemaic 
Egypt in the late Ptolemaic period. 2 


Ptolemy I hit the jackpot when he gained control of Egypt. The fifth 
century b.c.e. historian Herodotos claimed that Egypt had more wonders 
than any country in the world. Essentially a gigantic oasis watered by the 
Nile, Egypt was richer in history and resources and more densely popu- 
lated than any other country known to the Greeks. Four centuries later, 
another Greek historian named Diodoros claimed that during Cleopa- 
tra's reign, almost seven million Egyptians lived in more than thirty thou- 
sand towns. Although the numbers are certainly exaggerated, they give 
a vivid idea of the impression Egypt made on visitors. Governing such a 
vast country required the Ptolemies to develop the extensive and com- 
plex administrative system revealed by the papyri. 

The Ptolemies were autocrats, who ruled Egypt simultaneously as suc- 
cessors of the pharaohs and Macedonian kings. Their dual roles not only 
guaranteed their power over both Egyptians and Greeks, but also meant 
that they had a relatively free hand in developing their administrative 

Ptolemaic Egypt: How Did It Work? 37 

system, since Egypt and its native and immigrant population literally be- 
longed to them. Nevertheless, the Ptolemies did not create a new ad- 
ministration from scratch, but built on the foundations laid by their 
Egyptian predecessors. 

One reality determined governmental organization throughout Egypt- 
ian history: the pharaohs and the gods were the greatest landowners in 
Egypt. All Egypt was their estate and provided the revenues needed to 
enable the kings to govern the country and perform the rituals and cer- 
emonies essential to the survival not only of Egypt but of the world it- 
self. Grants of royal land paid officials and provided the economic basis 
for the innumerable temples whose priests served as the king's deputies 
in the worship of the gods. Although the extent of temple holdings dur- 
ing the Ptolemaic period is unknown, only they rivaled the government 
in the size of their holdings. Their workshops produced a variety of goods 
needed for their ceremonies and for trade, including fine textiles, metals, 
and papyri. Not surprisingly, the priests of the greatest temples formed a 
tiny but wealthy and influential native elite. 

The Egyptian populace on whose labor both the government and tem- 
ples depended lived in the towns and villages of Egypt. These were 
grouped into territorial units called nomes — whose number varied from 
36 to 40 — each of which was administered by an official historian called 
a nomarch. The nomarch was responsible for maintaining order in his 
nome, collecting and forwarding taxes to the central government, and 
judging disputes that were referred to him. In carrying out his tasks, the 
nomarch was assisted by a varied body of officials including village 
scribes, elders and village headmen, tax collectors, and police officials. 

Although local officials received new Greek titles to replace their of- 
fices' venerable Egyptian titles, the Ptolemies otherwise retained this or- 
ganization essentially unchanged from the establishment of the dynasty 
in the late fourth century b.c.e. until the Roman conquest in 30 b.c.e. 
What they did do, however, was superimpose on it a new centralized ad- 
ministrative system for Egypt as a whole that was based on the principle 
that the king's work takes priority over all other activities. Although the 
first hints of the new system were already apparent during the reign of 
Ptolemy I, its chief architect was his successor, Ptolemy II. 

Ptolemy II based his new system on the rigorous exploitation of Egypt's 
rich agricultural land — land so rich that Herodotos believed that Egyp- 


tians grew crops without work. The first historians to study the Ptolemaic 
government of Egypt believed that in order to achieve his goals, Ptolemy 
II thoroughly reorganized the Egyptian economy, transforming and mod- 
ernizing the barter-based economy of pharaonic Egypt by the introduc- 
tion of coinage on a large scale. Land usage also was rationalized by the 
introduction of a comprehensive classification system according to which 
all Egyptian land was divided into two broad categories: royal land for 
basic agricultural production and "released land." There were four sub- 
categories of released land, which were defined by their function: (1) 
cleruchic land to support the army; (2) gift land to reward government 
officials; (3) temple land to support Egypt's numerous temples; and (4) 
private land, which included personal house and garden plots owned by 

The nonagricultural sectors of the economy were also tightly organ- 
ized. Major areas of the economy such as textile, papyrus, and oil pro- 
duction were organized as state monopolies, intended to generate the 
maximum revenue for the king from fees and taxes. Aggressive efforts 
were made to minimize foreign competition for the profits of Egyptian 
commerce. Strict currency controls were imposed that required that all 
foreign coinage be exchanged for Egyptian coinage at artificially low 
rates. Similarly, government regulations limited the amount of imports 
that could be brought into the country and required that they be sold at 
artificially high prices. 

In the new system, every aspect of the Egyptian economy was subject 
to the supervision and control of an extensive bureaucracy headquartered 
in Alexandria, but with agents — Greek at the upper levels and Egyptian 
at the lower — in even the most remote village. To facilitate proper func- 
tioning of the system, every person from royal peasant to immigrant 
soldier was registered according to place of residence and economic func- 
tion. Annually, each village was instructed what crops to plant. Peasants 
and their animals were forbidden to leave their villages during key phases 
of the agricultural cycle such as planting and harvesting, and royal offi- 
cials had first claim on the crop. By Cleopatra's time, even the temples 
had been brought within the system. Government officials oversaw the 
management of their lands and revenues, and provided the priests and 
other temple staff with subsidies to perform their functions and maintain 
the temple buildings. 

Ptolemaic Egypt: How Did It Work? 39 


Ptolemy IPs goal in developing this system was clearly to bring as much 
as possible of the Egyptian economy under the supervision and control 
of the government. While his intentions are clear, the extent of his suc- 
cess is less so. The first historians who studied the Ptolemaic administra- 
tion of Egypt optimistically described it as a successful example of Greek 
rational planning applied to the government of an "oriental" kingdom. 
As scholars have investigated how the system actually worked, however, 
it has become increasingly clear that the idea of Ptolemaic Egypt as an 
orderly planned society managed by a rational and efficient bureaucracy 
is a myth. 

The original view had resulted from scholars' efforts to understand the 
mass of papyri discovered by archeologists, most of which deal with in- 
dividual transactions such as tax receipts or royal decisions with little if 
any explanation of why they were created. As a result, scholars devoted 
particular attention to documents such as the so-called "Revenue Laws 
of Ptolemy II" and "The Instructions of a Dioiketes [financial adminis- 
trator] to his Oikonomos [steward]," which seemed to be official hand- 
books of the rules governing the organization and administration of some 
of the most important governmental and economic institutions of Ptole- 
maic Egypt. Moreover, they were encouraged to interpret these docu- 
ments in this manner based on their similarity to documents issued by 
the new bureaucracies that developed in late-nineteenth- and twentieth- 
century Europe and America. 

On closer investigation, however, the similarity proved to be superfi- 
cial. Thus, close analysis revealed that the "Revenue Laws of Ptolemy II" 
do not describe the actual management of the Ptolemaic oil monopoly 
but the government's unrealistic idea of how such a monopoly ought to 
work. Similarly, another document, the so-called "crop planting sched- 
ule," which was originally thought to be a plan drawn up annually in 
Alexandria that set out in detail for each region of Egypt the crops to be 
planted in the following year, turned out instead to be a report compiled 
by the central government from speculative assessments by local officials 
of their district's future crops. Its purpose was not to rationally plan Egypt- 
ian agriculture but to provide crude estimates of the government's future 
revenues. Likewise, "The Instructions of a Dioiketes to his Oikonomos" 


was not an official manual for new administrators but a literary work de- 
scribing the duties and character of an ideal official. 

The Ptolemaic administration also lacked some of the key character- 
istics of any true bureaucracy, such as defined career paths, clear chains 
of command, and clearly specified areas of responsibility for its officials. 
The problem started at the top and extended throughout the govern- 
ment. While Ptolemaic Egypt was an autocracy, it was a personal autoc- 
racy. The government consisted of the king, his friends (the king's 
personal entourage), and the army. Government officials were not pro- 
fessional civil servants but political appointees, who often had multiple 
and sometimes even overlapping responsibilities. Nor were they trained 
for their offices but fulfilled whatever position the king posted them to, 
irrespective of their previous service. Moreover, not only were they un- 
trained, but — as the practice of selling government papers in bulk to un- 
dertakers reveals — they also lacked such basic bureaucratic tools as 
comprehensive archives to assist them in making their decisions. 

In other words, the Ptolemaic administration was far from being a ra- 
tionally designed and efficient bureaucratic machine intended to man- 
age a complex planned economy. Instead, it was a system riddled with 
irrationalities and inefficiencies, whose primary purpose was to control 
the king's Egyptian subjects and to extract the maximum amount of rev- 
enue from them. Documents such as the recently discovered Egyptian 
translation of Ptolemy IPs order for a complete economic survey of Egypt, 
and his letter threatening lawyers — whose support of their clients reduce 
revenue — with fines and confiscation of their property bear witness to his 
insatiable need for money to support his ambitious foreign policies. 

Not surprisingly, abuse was inherent in the system. From its origins in 
the reign of Ptolemy II to the time of Cleopatra, rulers found it neces- 
sary to repeatedly issue royal orders forbidding government officials from 
exploiting the king's subjects for personal gain. The situation eventually 
became so serious that kings routinely began their reign by publishing 
blanket amnesties forgiving unpaid debts owed the government and can- 
celing outstanding charges of wrongdoing by government officials so as 
to provide a "clean slate" for the new reign. Equally unsurprising, resist- 
ance to the system's demands was also rampant. Resistance took many 
forms, but the most important was a form of strike that Ptolemaic docu- 
ments refer to as anachoresis, "withdrawal" — the abandonment en masse 
of their villages and fields by royal peasants. The purpose of anachoresis 

Ptolemaic Egypt: How Did It Work? 41 

was not revolution but to pressure local officials to reduce their demands 
by threatening the revenues on which the government depended, and 
the ploy often succeeded because maintenance of the revenue stream was 
more important then enforcing the letter of royal policy. This was true 
from the origin of the system under Ptolemy II to its end during the reign 
of Cleopatra, whose decrees forbid the same abuses as those of her great 

Contemporary historians' views of Ptolemaic Egypt are more complex 
than those of the scholars who first studied the papyri and tried to re- 
construct the Ptolemaic organization of Egypt. On the one hand, there 
is no doubt that the government was able to extract large revenues from 
its subjects. Records still available in Alexandria in the second century 
c.e. revealed that during the reign of Ptolemy II, revenues were sufficient 
to support a huge military establishment that included 240,000 infantry 
and cavalry, 300 war elephants, and 3,500 warships. 3 And two centuries 
later, when Egyptian power had declined from its third-century b.c.e. 
peak, Cleopatra was still able to conduct a substantial building program, 
build at least two fleets, and assume much of the cost of Antony's vari- 
ous campaigns. At the same time, however, the repeated references to re- 
sistance by the Ptolemies' subjects to the government's demands and the 
crown's inability to prevent abuses by its own officials make it clear that 
royal autocracy was more apparent than real. It was only through flexi- 
bility and compromise that even the strongest Ptolemies such as Ptolemy 
II and Cleopatra could achieve their goals. 






When Cleopatra died in 30 b.c.e., Macedonian rule in Egypt had lasted 
for three centuries, the longest period of foreign rule in Egyptian history 
to that time. One effect of Macedonian rule was a great increase in the 
number of non-Egyptians in the country. It is reasonable to wonder, 
therefore, what it meant to be a non-Egyptian — particularly a Greek or 
Jew — living in Egypt during those centuries. The question has occupied 
both ancient and modern historians; both have given surprisingly simi- 
lar answers. It meant being a member of a small colonial elite living in 
a densely populated — ancient estimates put the population of Ptolemaic 
Egypt at about seven million people — and exotic land occupied by a peo- 
ple with a millennia-long history and strange customs like animal wor- 
ship. The reality was more complex. Far from being monolithic, Egyptian 
society was one of the earliest multicultural societies in history. 

At first glance this conclusion is surprising. Egyptian texts sharply dis- 
tinguish Egypt and Egyptians from all foreign peoples, so we would ex- 
pect Egyptian society to be closed to non-Egyptians, but that was not the 
case. In actuality, Egyptian society was simultaneously open and xeno- 
phobic. From earliest times, non-Egyptians settled in Egypt and melded 
into Egyptian society. For much of Egyptian history, acceptance was not 
difficult, since all that was required was that foreigners accept Egyptian 
traditions and values. Acculturation was made easier by the fact that for 
most of Egyptian history, the majority of non-Egyptians who settled in 
Egypt did so as individuals. As there was no barrier to intermarriage, after 
a generation or two, immigrants merged into the general population. In 


the first millennium b.c.e., however, when Greeks and Jews entered Egypt 
in large numbers, this was no longer the case. 

As Egypt came under foreign rule, increasingly individual immigration 
was replaced by the settlement of whole ethnic groups. Acculturation, 
which had previously smoothed the entry of foreigners into Egyptian so- 
ciety, functioned less efficiently since the new groups tended to be either 
Egypt's new rulers or their allies. Such groups had less incentive to lose 
their ethnic identity since it marked them as different and superior to 
the Egyptians they ruled. Even peoples like the Libyans and Nubians, 
who had long histories of contact with Egypt and had been strongly in- 
fluenced by Egyptian culture, resisted full assimilation. Egyptians, for 
their part, responded to these developments by heightening their own 
sense of Egyptianness, emphasizing their past superiority to their new 
masters, and elaborating those aspects of their culture that were most dis- 
tinctive, such as the cult of sacred animals. Not surprisingly, ambivalence 
and tension increasingly characterized relations between Egyptians and 
non-Egyptians. This was particularly true of relations between Egyptians 
and Greeks and Jews, who had no such histories and were, therefore, par- 
ticularly resistant to Egyptianization. 


Jewish and Greek contact with Egypt began long before Alexander's 
reign. Indeed, according to Jewish tradition preserved in the biblical story 
of the Exodus, Jews lived in Egypt for several centuries before fleeing the 
country late in the second millennium b.c.e. Although the Bible pro- 
vides evidence for diplomatic contact between Egypt and the Jewish 
kingdoms in the early first millennium b.c.e., it was only in the early sev- 
enth century b.c.e. that Jews began to settle in Egypt again. The initial 
impetus for this renewal of Jewish settlement in Egypt was the reliance 
of the pharaohs of the 26th dynasty on the support of foreign mercenar- 
ies to maintain their control of Egypt and defend its independence 
against foreign threats. 

Jewish mercenaries served in the army of Psamtek II during his Nu- 
bian campaign in 593 b.c.e. and continued in Egyptian service until the 
Persian conquest of Egypt in 525 b.c.e., when they entered Persian serv- 
ice. Although evidence suggests the presence of Jewish soldiers in Mem- 

Cleopatra's Egypt: A Multicultural Society 45 

phis and other Egyptian cities during the sixth and fifth centuries b.c.e., 
only the settlement at Elephantine near the southern border of Egypt is 
well known, thanks to the discovery of numerous Aramaic papyri that 
provide detailed evidence about the life of its inhabitants and their rocky 
relationship with their Egyptian neighbors. Although the evidence points 
to the continued presence of Jews in Egypt in the fourth century b.c.e., 
it is unlikely that they continued to enjoy the same privileged position 
they had had under Persian rule during the period of renewed Egyptian 
independence that lasted from 404 b.c.e. to 343 b.c.e. 

The early history of Greek settlement in Egypt is similar to that of the 
Jews. Contact between Greeks and Egypt in the late second millennium 
b.c.e. was followed by several centuries of relative isolation, resuming 
only in the early seventh century b.c.e. Like the Jews, Greeks first set- 
tled in Egypt as mercenaries in the service of the twenty-sixth-dynasty 
pharaohs. Greek soldiers fought in the army of Psamtek I when he re- 
belled against Assyrian rule and served along with Jewish soldiers in the 
Nubian campaign of Psamtek II. Greek garrisons are attested in both 
Lower and Upper Egypt as well as in a Greek quarter in Memphis. By 
the late sixth century b.c.e., Egyptian trade with the Aegean was exten- 
sive enough for the pharaoh, Amasis, to allow a consortium of twelve 
Greek cities to found the city of Naukratis in the western Delta, which 
served as the center for all trade between Greece and Egypt. Unlike the 
Jews, however, Greeks supported the Egyptians in their efforts to escape 
Persian rule; consequently, Greek influence in Egypt increased during the 
period of renewed Egyptian independence in the first half of the fourth 
century b.c.e. 


The Greek and Jewish settlements existing in Egypt before Alexan- 
der's invasion in 332 b.c.e. formed the nucleus of the Greek and Jewish 
populations in Ptolemaic Egypt. The scale of the Greek and Jewish pres- 
ence in Egypt, however, expanded greatly under Macedonian rule. The 
Greeks came first in two waves, one under Alexander and a second and 
much larger one under the early Ptolemies — particularly Ptolemy II, 
whose efforts to attract Greeks to Egypt earned him the reputation of 
being "the best paymaster for a free man." 1 There were also two large 
waves of Jewish immigration — one under Ptolemy I, consisting largely of 


enslaved prisoners captured during Ptolemy's capture of Jerusalem in 307 
b.c.e., and a second in the 170s b.c.e., composed of political refugees flee- 
ing the expansion of Seleukid influence in Judaea — supplemented by the 
sort of small-scale population movements that had typified relations be- 
tween Egypt and Palestine for centuries. 

Reliable statistics are lacking for Greek and Jewish immigration to 
Egypt, but it is likely that by the time of Cleopatra, the total number of 
Greeks and Jews in Egypt was close to a million — approximately 14 per- 
cent of the population of Egypt. The reason for this extraordinary mi- 
gration, one of the largest in ancient history, is not in doubt. While 
Alexander seems to have hoped to include members of the old elite of 
the Persian Empire in the ruling class of his empire in order to make up 
for the limited number of Macedonians available to him, Ptolemy I and 
the other successors did not share this vision, preferring instead to enlist 
the support of peoples with strong military traditions but who could not 
threaten their control of their kingdoms — hence, like Greeks and Jews. 

The effects of increased immigration on Egypt and the lives of Egyp- 
tians were dramatic. During the reign of Alexander, Egyptians could be 
found at all levels of government, and members of the former royal fam- 
ily held high military positions. A generation later, Egyptian soldiers still 
made up a large part of Ptolemy I's army. By the reign of Ptolemy II, how- 
ever, this was no longer true. Greeks monopolized government offices 
above the village level, and Egyptians had been largely eliminated from 
the military. It was only in desperation that Ptolemy IV reintroduced 
Egyptians into the phalanx in the late third century b.c.e. Their place 
had been taken by a new class of Greek and Jewish immigrant soldiers 
paid with land grants called cleruchies, which were worked by Egyptian 
farmers who leased them from the soldiers. 


The nature of relations between the various ethnic groups in Ptole- 
maic Egypt is one of the oldest problems in its historiography. Before 
analysis of papyri provided insights into how the Ptolemaic system actu- 
ally worked, historians offered idealized interpretations of Ptolemaic so- 
ciety, viewing it as a "melting pot" in which Greek and non-Greeks 
blended into a new cosmopolitan civilization. More recently, a harsher 
view has become popular in which interaction between ethnic groups 

Cleopatra's Egypt: A Multicultural Society 47 

was minimal, and social status and privilege were determined by ethnic- 
ity — with Macedonian and Greek identity ranking highest and Egyptian 

There is a considerable degree of truth in the view of Ptolemaic Egypt 
as a segregated society thanks to the organization of the kingdom. Cer- 
tainly, the fact that Cleopatra was the first member of her dynasty to learn 
to speak Egyptian suggests that relations between the Greek and Mace- 
donian upper class and native Egyptians were limited. Moreover, unlike 
their Seleukid rivals, the founding of cities, where the two peoples might 
interact, was not part of the Ptolemies' strategy for governing Egypt. 
There were only three Greek cities in all of Egypt: Alexandria; the old 
colony of Naukratis; and Ptolemais, near Thebes in Upper Egypt. As 
Greek and Jewish settlement was largely confined to these cities and new 
villages built on reclaimed land in the Fayum, and nome capitals, the re- 
ality was that the vast majority of Egyptians who lived in the country- 
side had little contact with either Greeks or Jews. Not surprisingly, studies 
of Egyptian villages have revealed an almost total absence of either Greek 
or Jewish residents or foreign influence on the daily life of their inhabi- 

Social segregation existed in the cities also. Egyptians were not citi- 
zens of the three Greek cities. They lived in separate residential quarters 
and intermarriage was forbidden. The Ptolemies even maintained sepa- 
rate legal systems for their Greek, Jewish, and Egyptian subjects. Tension 
between these groups was inevitable, and evidence documenting that fact 
is found throughout Ptolemaic history. 

The evidence is fullest for relations between Greeks and Egyptians. 
Thus, the third century b.c.e. poet Theokritos characterizes petty street 
crime as "mugging Egyptian style," 2 while an Egyptian in the service of 
a government official complains that his Greek supervisors hold him in 
contempt and have refused to pay him for months "because I am a bar- 
barian." A century later the personal papers of a Greek recluse living in 
the temple of Sarapis at Memphis are filled with references to incidents 
of personal harassment by his Egyptian neighbors. Complaints of assaults 
on Greeks by Egyptians or disrespect of Greeks are not uncommon in 
legal documents. 

Tension between Egyptians and Jews is also attested, but unlike the 
situation with the Greeks, it was ideological in origin. The primary source 
of the hostility was the Exodus story and the sacrifice of the paschal lamb 


during the Passover festival, both of which Egyptians found deeply of- 
fensive. Already in the fifth century b.c.e. priests of the creator god 
Khnum to whom lambs were sacred instigated attacks on the Jews at Ele- 
phantine and their temple. Similar violence is not known to have oc- 
curred in Ptolemaic Egypt, but the historian Manetho and other Egyptian 
writers produced antisemitic versions of the Exodus story. In these ver- 
sions of the story, Jews were portrayed not as an enslaved people seeking 
their freedom but as lepers and impious criminals expelled by a pious 
pharaoh to purify Egypt. Even more hostile is an anonymous prophecy 
extant in a third century c.e. text but probably dating to the second cen- 
tury b.c.e. that urges Egyptians to attack the Jews or "your city will be- 
come desolate." 3 

It is understandable that many Egyptians longed for the return of na- 
tive rule and that prophecy of the end of Macedonian rule is a common 
theme in Hellenistic Egyptian literature. Two such texts still survive. The 
one known as the Prophecy of the Lamb held out the hope of the return 
of native Egyptian rule but only after nine hundred years of brutal for- 
eign rule, 4 while the Potter's Oracle more optimistically claimed that the 
Greeks and Macedonians would turn on each other and open the way 
for a savior king to free Egypt. Some Egyptians went further and identi- 
fied the royal savior with a son of Nektanebo II, the last pharaoh of a 
free Egypt, who had fled to Nubia when the Persians reconquered Egypt 
in the 340s b.c.e. but would return some day to free Egypt. 

It is equally understandable that not all Egyptians were content to wait 
for the miraculous appearance of a savior king. In the 240s b.c.e., a na- 
tive revolt forced Ptolemy III to abandon his invasion of the Seleukid 
kingdom and return to Egypt. The Rosetta stone, which enabled schol- 
ars to decipher hieroglyphic writing, commemorates the suppression of 
another such rebellion in the first years of the reign of Ptolemy V. The 
greatest such uprising, however, broke out in 207/6 b.c.e., and for almost 
two decades, native pharaohs ruled Upper Egypt before the rebellion was 
crushed by the forces of Ptolemy V. During this last rebellion, the city of 
Thebes regained for the last time its centuries-old glory as the capital of 
an Egyptian kingdom, and its chief god Amon was again the patron of a 
pharaoh, while Egyptian documents ignored the Ptolemies and their di- 
vine protectors. 

Nevertheless, the description of Ptolemaic Egypt as a rigidly segregated 
society polarized between oppressive non-Egyptians and rebellious Egyp- 

Cleopatra's Egypt: A Multicultural Society 49 

tians is as much an oversimplification as the idea that it was the home 
of a harmoniously mixed Hellenistic civilization. The existence of Greek 
translations of Egyptian texts such as "The Dream of Nekitanebos" indi- 
cates that some Greeks were interested in contemporary Egyptian cul- 
ture, while the claim that Alexander was really the son of Nektanebo II 
and the hoped-for savior king equally proves that some Egyptians were 
prepared to accept Macedonian rule. The reality was that social divisions 
and conflicts within Egyptian society made unified resistance to Mace- 
donian rule impossible. 

For millennia, the security of Egypt and its kings depended on the 
support of the gods and their priesthoods, and that remained true of 
Ptolemaic Egypt. One of the principal sources of Egyptian discontent 
under Persian rule had been the Persians' niggardliness toward the tem- 
ples and hostility toward the cult of sacred animals such as the Apis bull. 
Alexander and the Ptolemies after him strove to avoid the Persians' mis- 
takes. Thus, although the Ptolemies subjected the temples of Egypt to 
greater supervision than their pharaonic predecessors, they also main- 
tained and expanded the scale of state subsidy of religion. Thus, the 
Ptolemies participated in the cult of the Apis and Buchis bulls and un- 
derwrote the costs of their burials. They also built temples for the Egypt- 
ian gods on a scale that had not been seen since the height of the new 
kingdom a thousand years earlier. Indeed, many of the temples that 
tourists visit today were built by the Ptolemies and not their pharaonic 

Egyptian evidence suggests that the Ptolemies' policies worked and 
won them considerable support among the Egyptian religious elite. 
Priestly families prospered, accumulating large estates and actively en- 
gaging in business transactions of all kinds, while expending large sums 
on the traditional Egyptian indicators of personal success: dedications to 
the gods and lavish tomb furnishings. Their prosperity also provided the 
basis for a vigorous revival of Egyptian culture, resulting in a variety of 
new and interesting literary and artistic works that are only now being 
studied and appreciated. It is not surprising, therefore, that native rebel- 
lions targeted both priests and major Ptolemaic temples — such as that at 
Edfu — or that in the Rosetta stone, Ptolemy V is congratulated for his 
brutal suppression of a native rebellion at Lykopolis in Lower Egypt that 
threatened the welfare of the Egyptian priesthood just as much as it did 
their Macedonian overlord. 


Opportunities to acquire wealth were not limited to the religious elite. 
Analysis of the personal archives of village officials such as Menches, the 
village scribe of Kerkeosiris, has revealed that such people could grow 
rich by exploiting their role as essential intermediaries between the 
Greek-speaking central government and its Egyptian subjects. Not sur- 
prisingly, local officials were loyal supporters of the Ptolemaic regime, and 
were also singled out for reprisal during native uprisings in the late third 
and second centuries b.c.e. 

While religious differences reinforced the mutual isolation of Jews and 
Egyptians, social and cultural factors tended to moderate the segregation 
of Greeks and Egyptians in Ptolemaic Egypt. The most important of these 
factors was demography. At the beginning of the Hellenistic period, in- 
termarriage between Greeks and Egyptians was relatively common, since 
the majority of Greek immigrants were soldiers and, therefore, predomi- 
nantly male. Moreover, although the Ptolemies actively encouraged 
Greek immigration with generous rewards, the total number of immi- 
grants was relatively small, and the majority of those came in the early 
years of Macedonian rule. By the second century b.c.e. however, Greek 
immigration had largely stopped. The number of ethnic Greeks in Ptole- 
maic Egypt was, therefore, probably small. 

Equally, except for the inhabitants of Alexandria, Naukratis, and 
Ptolemais, most Greek immigrants lived in predominantly Egyptian en- 
vironments where intermarriage was not uncommon, and few of the tra- 
ditional political or social institutions of Greek culture existed. For all 
intents and purposes, therefore, the majority of Greeks in Egypt remained 
essentially resident aliens who retained the citizenship of their home 
poleis, as can be seen from the fact that Egyptian Greeks continued to 
identify themselves by their poleis of origin in public and private docu- 
ments even after their families had resided in Egypt for several genera- 
tions. Greeks living in such circumstances tended to assimilate to the 
social and cultural mores of their non-Greek neighbors and inlaws. A 
good example of the result of such assimilation is the family of a Greek 
cavalry officer named Dryton, whose wife and children all have Egypt- 
ian names and used both Greek and Egyptian indiscriminately in their 
business and legal activities but proudly considered themselves Greek. 
The results of this process of assimilation are most visible, however, in 
the area of religion, since Greeks, like other polytheists, were already pre- 
disposed to honor the gods of countries in which they lived. 

Cleopatra's Egypt: A Multicultural Society 51 


In Ptolemaic Egypt, a Hellenized form of Egyptian religion developed 
as some of the old polis gods came to appear anachronistic or irrelevant 
to the country's Greek population. The most striking product of this Hel- 
lenized Egyptian religion was to be found in Alexandria, where Ptolemy 
I called on the Egyptian priest and historian Manetho and the Athenian 
ritual expert Timotheos to create a new god to serve as the city's new pa- 
tron deity. The new god, Sarapis, was a synthesis of Egyptian and Greek 
elements, combining aspects of Hades, Osiris, Asklepios, and Zeus. Out- 
side Alexandria, Greeks worshiped traditional Egyptian gods such as Isis 
and Osiris. The centuries-old Greek practice of identifying their own 
gods with those of other peoples (syncretism) encouraged acceptance of 
these strange deities, but the process of identification itself entailed losses 
as well as gains. 

Native Egyptian practices that too obviously conflicted with Greek re- 
ligious traditions, such as animal worship or mummification, were purged 
from the new Hellenized cults, while the Egyptian gods took on the iden- 
tities of the Greek gods with whom they were identified. The result is 
evident in the case of Isis. Originally the devoted wife of Osiris and 
mother of Horus in the charter myth of the Egyptian monarchy, Isis, 
through her identification with Greek goddesses like Aphrodite, Deme- 
ter, and Athena, assumed a character that was unprecedented in Egypt- 
ian tradition: queen of the universe, benefactress of all people, and 
creator of civilization. When accommodation between Greek and non- 
Greek culture occurred, therefore, it occurred in such a way that the re- 
sult did not challenge the dominance of Greek culture and values. As a 
result of these developments, the worship of Isis spread widely not only 
among the non-Egyptian population of Ptolemaic Egypt but also outside 
Egypt after the Roman conquest, when it became one of the chief rivals 
to Christianity. 

The implications of these developments for understanding the nature 
of Egyptian society in Cleopatra's Egypt are profound. When her ances- 
tor Ptolemy I became king in 305 b.c.e., Greeks living in Egypt were ei- 
ther immigrants or the descendants of immigrants from the Greek cities 
of the Aegean. By the time of Cleopatra, however, this was not true. No 
longer were Greeks necessarily members of a particular ethnic group but 
persons who her government said were Greek. 


As the Ptolemaic government recognized only two kinds of people in 
Egypt — native Egyptians and Greeks — and distinguished them according 
to whether they used the Greek or Egyptian legal system, this meant that 
the privileged class of Greeks had expanded to include all persons of 
Greek culture. Greeks in Cleopatra's Egypt, therefore, were people who 
spoke Greek and who had received a Greek education, adopted a Greek 
lifestyle (and frequently a Greek name), and worshiped their old gods 
under Greek names. Greek-educated Egyptians as well as the children of 
mixed marriages qualified under this rule. Even Jews could sometimes be 
classified as Greeks — despite the religious differences separating them 
from other "Greeks" — if they were Greek speakers and used the Greek 
legal system. 5 

These developments were mutually beneficial for wealthy non-Greeks 
and the Ptolemaic state. For ambitious individuals, the value of being 
considered a Greek was considerable. Not only did they become eligible 
for high-ranking government jobs and contracts, but they paid lower 
taxes than Egyptians and were exempt from humiliating punishments 
such a being publicly whipped. It is not surprising, therefore, that upper 
class Egyptians and Jews sought Greek identification and the Greek ed- 
ucation that made it possible. The benefit to the Ptolemaic state is 
equally clear. The Greek population of Egypt continued to expand after 
Aegean immigration dried up in the late third century b.c.e. Equally im- 
portant, their acceptance as Greeks tended to alienate those who re- 
ceived such identification from the bulk of the native Egyptian 
population, thereby reducing the number of potential leaders for move- 
ments hostile to the Ptolemies. As a result, the increasing interaction of 
the Greek and non-Greek populations of second and first century b.c.e. 
Egypt — which Aegean Greeks and Romans condemned — far from lead- 
ing to the ruin of Ptolemaic Egypt actually contributed to its survival. 



of Culture and 



The fate of rulers and cities are often closely connected. Thus, the fifth 
century b.c.e. statesman Perikles and the Roman emperor Augustus are 
inextricably linked with Athens and Rome. Similarly, Cleopatra VII is 
tightly connected to the city of Alexandria, where she spent most of her 
life and where many of the most famous events of her reign took place. 

Located near the mouth of the Canopic branch of the Nile at the west- 
ern edge of the delta, Alexandria was the first, most famous, and most 
enduring of Alexander's many city foundations. Alexander founded the 
city on the site of a small Egyptian town named Rhakotis just before leav- 
ing Egypt in the spring of 331 b.c.e. His motives for choosing this par- 
ticular site were probably mixed. Located at one of the few good harbors 
in the Delta and possessing easy access to the Nile and the interior of 
Egypt, Alexandria was ideally situated to replace the nearby Greek city 
of Naukratis as the principal link between Egypt and Greece. Alexan- 
der's interest in the site, however, was also sparked by the fact that just 
offshore lay the island of Pharos, the site of one of the most famous 
episodes in the works of his beloved Homer — the struggle between 
Menelaos and the shape-shifting wizard Proteus in the Odyssey. 

Alexandria occupied a unique place in the Hellenistic world. Al- 
though it was built around an existing Egyptian settlement and func- 
tioned as the capital of Egypt, Alexandria was not itself officially part of 
Egypt. It was, instead, a Greek city-state with its own territory, as its an- 
cient name "Alexandria by Egypt" indicates. As in any Greek city-state, 
Alexandrian citizenship was limited to the Greeks and Macedonians 


whom Alexander and the Ptolemies encouraged to settle in the new city. 
These groups, however, formed only a small portion of Alexandria's total 
population. A liberal immigration policy created a multiethnic popula- 
tion including Egyptians, Syrians, and Nubians, as well as a vibrant Jew- 
ish community that eventually occupied fully one-fifth of the city's area 
and whose great synagogue was considered second only to the temple in 
Jerusalem as one of the marvels of the Jewish world. 

Alexandria flourished as a result of the patronage of the Ptolemies and 
its dual role of capital of Egypt and commercial link between the Mediter- 
ranean and Africa, Arabia, and the countries bordering the Indian 
Ocean. By the time Cleopatra came to the throne in 50 b.c.e., Alexan- 
dria had grown to a city of more than 500,000 inhabitants and was the 
premier city of the Mediterranean basin. 


Although Alexander only had time during his stay in Egypt to lay out 
the general outlines of Alexandria, his plans were on a grand scale. The 
city was planned as a rectangle divided into four quarters by two wide 
boulevards that intersected at its center. He also ordered the building of 
a mole almost a mile long to connect Pharos to the mainland, thereby 
creating two sheltered harbors. Responsibility for embellishing the city, 
however, fell to the Ptolemies, who in the words of the geographer Strabo 
built "many fine public precincts and palaces, which occupy a fourth or 
even a third of the city's whole perimeter; for just as each of the kings 
added some adornment to its public monuments, so each added his own 
residence to those already existing." 

Perhaps the clearest symbol of the dynamism and originality of 
Alexandria, however, was its signature monument, the Pharos lighthouse, 
which was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World 
and whose fame even reached China. 1 The Pharos lighthouse was built 
by the architect Sostratus of Knidos for Ptolemy II and was the world's 
first skyscraper. Containing three stages, its polygonal tower rose over 
three hundred feet above Alexandria and was topped by a statue of Zeus 
Soter (savior), whose beacon fire was visible far out to sea and guided 
ships to Alexandria. 

Today little remains of Alexandria's ancient splendor on the ground. 
An earthquake toppled the lighthouse into the sea in the fourteenth cen- 

Alexandria: City of Culture and Conflict 55 

tury c.e., while continuous occupation of the site has eliminated virually 
all remains of ancient Alexandria, allowing scholars to speculate that an- 
cient visitors would have encountered a purely Greek city. As is its wont, 
however, archaeology has revolutionized our understanding of Cleopa- 
tra's and her predecessor's Alexandria. 

As a result of tectonic changes in the Mediterranean since antiquity, 
the sea has encroached on much of the shoreline of ancient Alexandria 
and its suburbs. Thus, while little of the ancient city survives within mod- 
ern Alexandria, much of the ancient royal quarter of Alexandria lies sub- 
merged in the shallow waters of Alexandria harbor. Underwater 
archaeologists began exploring this treasure in the 1990s and discovered 
not only the remains of Greek-style buildings and sculpture but also large 
amounts of Egyptian sculpture, which the Ptolemies had brought to their 
capital from all over Egypt. Instead of a purely Greek city, the Ptolemies 
had created an urban setting in which both Egyptian and Greek aspects 
of their kingdom were celebrated, providing a dramatic setting for the 
city's cultural and political life. 


The Ptolemies strove to make Alexandria the cultural center of the 
Greek world. Like Alexander — whose entourage had included artists and 
intellectuals such as Aristotle's nephew, Kallisthenes, his court histo- 
rian — Ptolemy I and his immediate successors encouraged prominent 
Greek scholars and scientists to come to Egypt. With the enormous 
wealth of Egypt at their disposal, the Ptolemies could afford to subsidize 
intellectuals, encouraging artistic and scientific work by establishing cul- 
tural institutions of a new type. 

Their principal cultural foundation was the Museum, which received 
its name because it was organized as a temple dedicated to the nine 
Muses, the patron goddesses of the arts. Because the Museum was or- 
ganized as a religious institution, its director was a priest of the Muses 
appointed by the government. The model for the Museum was the Peri- 
patos, the school Aristotle founded in Athens in the late 330s b.c.e. Like 
the Peripatos, the Museum was not a teaching institution but a research 
center containing gardens and residential quarters, where distinguished 
scholars, intellectuals, and technicians could pursue their studies in con- 
genial surroundings. 


The Museum's grounds included dormitories, dining facilities, and 
pleasant gardens in which its members could meet and talk about their 
projects. Like its director, the members of the Museum were appointed 
by the government and received stipends to enable them to devote their 
energies to their work. One envious rival sneered at the successful occu- 
pants of Ptolemy's "bird coop" with some justification, since subsidized 
intellectuals were expected to earn their keep. Doctors and writers re- 
ceiving government stipends served as physicians and tutors to members 
of the royal family, and celebrated its achievements. Thus, in his poem 
The Lock of Berenice, the third-century b.c.e. scholar and poet Kalli- 
makhos described the transformation into a comet of a lock of hair ded- 
icated by Berenice II in 246 bc to commemorate the beginning of the 
Third Syrian War. In a similar vein, Theokritos' seventeenth Idyll ex- 
travagantly praised the first decade of Ptolemy IPs reign. 

Closely connected to the Museum was the famous Alexandrian Li- 
brary, which Ptolemy I established with the aid and advice of Demetrios 
of Phaleron — an Athenian politician and student of Aristotle, who was 
living in exile in Egypt. Like the Museum, the Library was not open to 
the public but was intended to assist the members of the Museum in pur- 
suing their studies. To that end, it was meant to contain copies of every 
book written in Greek. By the time of Cleopatra, the Library is estimated 
to have contained 700,000 papyrus rolls in its collection. 

The Ptolemies' passion for expanding the royal Library's collections 
was legendary. The Greek translation of the Jewish Bible, the Septuagint, 
was supposedly produced on order of Ptolemy II, and the official Athen- 
ian copy of the works of the three canonical tragedians was allegedly 
stolen by Ptolemy III. Even the books of visitors to Egypt were scruti- 
nized and seized — the owner receiving a cheap copy as a replacement — 
if they were not part of the Library's collection. However its books were 
acquired, the Library offered unprecedented resources for scholarly re- 
search in every field of intellectual endeavor, provided, of course, they 
were reliable copies. 

Already in antiquity there were rumors that unscrupulous book deal- 
ers provided the Ptolemies with forged copies of unknown letters and 
works by famous Greek writers. Kallimakhos began the process of au- 
thenticating the Library's holdings by creating a monumental catalogue 
of the Library in 120 books that laid the foundation for the history of 
Greek literature. Later scholars and librarians concentrated their efforts 

Alexandria: City of Culture and Conflict 57 

on identifying the authentic works of the major Greek writers including 
Homer, the lyric poets, the Athenian tragedians, and orators. 

Although the goal of Kallimakhos and his successors — and the rulers 
who supported them — was to produce reliable texts of the works of major 
Greek writers for the Alexandrian Library, their work quickly gained an 
audience beyond the walls of the Museum and Library. How this hap- 
pened is not known in detail, but a growing book trade catering to both 
Greeks and non-Greeks who desired to acquire a Greek education was 
certainly a factor. In any event, study of papyrus copies of Greek literary 
works has revealed that within a few hundred years of the establishment 
of the Museum and Library, the texts of the works of the major authors 
had been standardized in forms that are the ancestors of the versions we 
still read today. 

Alexandrian Literature 

The work of Alexandrian intellectuals was not limited, however, to 
satisfying the whims of their royal patrons. Alexandrian writers made im- 
portant innovations in Greek literature. In his Idylls — brief dialogues or 
monologues set in an idealized countryside — Theokritos introduced the 
pastoral mode into western literature. Kallimakhos inaugurated the tra- 
dition of "learned" poetry in works such as his Hymns and Aetia, in which 
he retold in elegant verse obscure myths and the origins of strange cus- 
toms and festivals collected from all over the Greek world. Kallimakhos' 
younger contemporary and rival the librarian Apollonios of Rhodes rein- 
vigorated the old epic genre with his acute psychological portraits of 
Jason and Medea in his vivid retelling of the story of Jason and the Arg- 
onauts, the Argonautica. Another contemporary of Kallimakhos — Euhe- 
meros, an ambassador of Cassander to Ptolemy I — put forward a radical 
and important theory about the origins of mythology: he invented the 
Utopian travel romance in order to propound in his Sacred Tale the no- 
tion that the gods were great rulers worshiped after their deaths for their 
gifts to humanity. 

The literary language of Ptolemaic Alexandria was Greek, but the cre- 
ation of literary texts was not limited to Greeks; instead, it was multi- 
cultural like the city's population. The most active of the city's other 
ethnic groups was Alexandria's large Jewish community. The most im- 
portant Jewish work produced in Ptolemaic Alexandria was the Greek 


translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint (version of the 
seventy). Pious legend claimed that it was created by seventy divinely in- 
spired translators at the instigation of Ptolemy II, who wished to include 
a copy of the Jewish scriptures in the Library; in actuality, it took almost 
two centuries to complete the translation. Its importance, however, can- 
not be overestimated, since it was the existence of the Septuagint that 
made possible the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire. 

The Septuagint was not, however, the only literary work produced by 
Jewish writers living in Alexandria. They also wrote epic poems, dramas, 
histories, and short stories using themes drawn from the Bible. Although 
only fragments of these works survive, we can see that two themes char- 
acterized them: the need to provide Jewish readers with religiously ap- 
propriate reading material that was comparable to pagan Greek literature 
and the desire to rebut Greek and Egyptian claims that Jews had not 
played an important role in the development of civilization. Some Jew- 
ish writers went even further in their attempt to find a bridge between 
Jewish and Greek thought. Thus, the philosopher Aristoboulos argued in 
a work addressed to Ptolemy VI that the god of the Jews and the Greek 
philosophers were the same, and that Plato and other Greek philosophers 
were influenced by the ideas of Moses in developing their ideas — a the- 
ory that early Christian thinkers would use later to justify the preserva- 
tion of pagan literature. 

The Jews were not the only non-Greek writers in Alexandria. There 
were also Egyptian writers, who similarly tried to emphasize the great role 
Egypt had played in history. The most famous of these Egyptian writers 
was the priest Manetho, who had helped Ptolemy I create the god Sara- 
pis. Manetho's most famous and important work was a history of Egypt 
in three books based on Egyptian temple records. Unfortunately, most of 
Manetho's history is lost, but his list of the Egyptian kings survives and 
is still used by Egyptologists today. Another important Egyptian writer is 
the anonymous author of a romantic biography of Alexander the Great 
known as the Alexander Romance, in which Alexander fights monsters 
and has other fantastic adventures. The author also claims to reveal the 
truth about Alexander's birth. According to this author, Alexander was 
not a Macedonian but an Egyptian and the son of Nektanebo II, the last 
king of Egypt, who deceived his mother Olympias with his magic into 
believing that she was having intercourse with Philip II of Macedon. This 
version of Alexander's birth had little influence in antiquity, but in the 

Alexandria: City of Culture and Conflict 59 

Middle Ages it became widely known throughout Eurasia as a result of 
the Alexander Romance being translated into numerous languages, in- 
cluding Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin. 

Scholarship and Science 

The greatest achievements of Hellenistic intellectuals, however, were 
in the areas of literary scholarship and applied science. Although few of 
their works survive in their original form, their discoveries and achieve- 
ments were incorporated into the works of later scholars and provided 
the foundation for much of European and Islamic intellectual activity 
until the scientific revolution. Thus, in addition to founding the critical 
study of Greek literature and preparing standard texts of Homer and nu- 
merous other writers, Alexandrian scholars prepared essential tools for 
studying and teaching, including the first Greek grammars, dictionaries, 
and scholia — that is, notes accompanying a text that explained unusual 
words and historical and literary allusions found in it. 

Important advances were also made in geogpraphy and mechanics. 
The third century b.c.e. librarian and royal tutor Eratosthenes of Kyrene 
established the principles of scientific cartography, creating the first rel- 
atively accurate map of the world known to the Greeks, and produced a 
strikingly accurate estimate of the circumference of the earth by apply- 
ing basic principles of plane geometry to evidence he found in explorers' 
reports contained in the Library. About the same time, the physicist Kte- 
sibios pioneered the study of ballistics and the use of compressed air as a 
source of power for various types of machines, including musical instru- 
ments and weapons such as repeating crossbows. Other scientists exper- 
imented with the use of steam power, creating the prototype for a simple 
steam engine and a device to automatically open the doors of small re- 
ligious shrines. These studies also found practical applications. Thus, an 
unknown Ptolemaic technician invented the saqqiyah, an animal- 
powered waterwheel that is still used today in Egypt and the Sudan, while 
the application of principles of hydrology enabled Ptolemy II to build a 
canal linking the Nile to the Red Sea — the ancestor of the modern Suez 

Equally important advances were made in medicine, particularly by 
the two third century b.c.e. doctors Herophilos and Erasistratos. They 
made fundamental discoveries concerning the anatomy and functions of 


the human nervous, circulatory, optical, reproductive, and digestive sys- 
tems by dissecting corpses, and even vivisecting criminals whom the gov- 
ernment provided for the advancement of science. Alexandria also 
offered them opportunities for profitable collaboration with Egyptian and 
other non-Greek doctors. Herophilos applied the Egyptian discovery of 
the pulse to diagnosis and prognosis of fevers by recognizing that the pulse 
rate was also the heart rate and developing a technique for timing it with 
a water clock. He also introduced numerous drugs already in use in Egypt 
and elsewhere in the territories conquered by Alexander into the Greek 
pharmocopia. Although the heyday of Alexandrian medicine was the 
third century b.c.e., Alexandria remained an important center of med- 
ical activity and instruction throughout the Hellenistic period and be- 
yond. Cleopatra's court physician even produced the earliest known 
detailed description of bubonic plague. 

The importance of royal patronage in Ptolemaic cultural activity did, 
however, have a drawback. Areas that did not receive royal largess tended 
to stagnate. Thus, apart from the works of the mathematician Euclid, 
whose Elements was still used to introduce students to geometry in the 
early twentieth century, the Alexandrian contribution to the theoretical 
sciences and philosophy, which were of limited interest to the Ptolemies, 
was undistinguished in quality and limited in quantity. 


Modern historians view Alexandria primarily as the capital of Egypt 
and as a cosmopolitan center of commerce and culture. Ancient schol- 
ars agreed but they also emphasized the turbulence of its population and 
its potential for violence. Examples are numerous, but perhaps the clear- 
est statement of this negative view of Alexandria and its inhabitants is 
that of the second century b.c.e. historian Polybius, 2 who observed that 
"the savagery of the inhabitants of Egypt is terrible when their passions 
are arroused." 

The earliest known example of this violence occurred in 204 b.c.e. 
when the Alexandrians rose in support of the boy king Ptolemy V after 
the death of his father, Ptolemy IV. When the rioting finally ceased, the 
clique that had ruled Egypt in the name of Ptolemy IV was dead, having 
been literally torn apart in the city's stadium, and Ptolemy V was king. 
Similar cataclysms occurred throughout the rest of Ptolemaic history. 

Alexandria: City of Culture and Conflict 61 

Thus, the populace drove out Ptolemy IX at the instigation of his mother, 
Cleopatra III, and killed Ptolemy XI after the death of Cleopatra 
Berenike III; and, of course, they forced Ptolemy XII into exile and al- 
most defeated Julius Caesar and destroyed Cleopatra's dreams of power. 

Ancient explanations of the volatility of the Alexandrians focused on 
the negative effects of living in Egypt with some justification, since the 
crowded conditions in which the populace lived combined with the ten- 
sions between the various ethnic groups living in the city lowered the 
threshold for public unrest. It was the peculiar political situation created 
by Alexandria's role as capital of Egypt, however, that repeatedly sparked 
riots as the various court factions sought to build popular support for their 
goals. In this political game, the kings courted the Alexandrians by pro- 
viding spectacles and festivals and benefactions such as gifts and free food 
in times of shortage, while other groups played on the populace's preju- 
dices to advance their goals. Thus, the murder of the popular queen 
mother Arsinoe III set off the riots that accompanied the accession of 
Ptolemy V, while Ptolemy XII's and Cleopatra's enemies exploited the 
Alexandrians' hatred of the Romans in their bid for power. 

Just as the death of Cleopatra VII and the end of the Ptolemaic dy- 
nasty did not end Alexandria's role as a commercial and cultural center, 
this political dynamic survived the Roman conquest. Riots as fierce as 
any during the reign of the Ptolemies punctuate the history of Roman 
Egypt, reaching their climax in 391 c.e. when the Christian bishop 
Theophilos incited the Alexandrians to destroy the Serapeum — the great 
complex of temples and catacombs where the cult of Serapis had its 
home — and its library, the greatest surviving monument of the city's 
pagan past. 



Queen and 


A remarkable period in Egyptian and world history ended with Cleopa- 
tra VII's suicide in 30 b.c.e. Cleopatra was the last and, in many ways, 
the most remarkable of the successors of Alexander the Great. For two 
decades she struggled to maintain the independence of Egypt and to re- 
store it to the greatness it had enjoyed under her third-century b.c.e. an- 
cestors, and to a remarkable extent she succeeded. Until recently, 
however, historians have rarely treated Cleopatra as a historical actor 
with coherent and potentially achievable policies and goals. Instead the 
emphasis has been on her as a woman trying to act like a man — a woman 
consumed by ambition who used her sexuality to manipulate Caesar and 
Antony, ultimately corrupting them and destroying her kingdom in the 

Yet the evidence presented in this book tells a different story. Al- 
though Cleopatra's sexuality and her willingness to use it in pursuit of 
her goals were real, the truth was that she played three roles in her life — 
lover, mother, and queen — and the last two were the most important. 
Despite the claims of her unbridled licentiousness that supposedly even 
extended to her slaves, she actually had relationships with only two men, 
Caesar and Antony, and she was, as far as we can tell, faithful to both. 
She was similarly faithful to her children and to Egypt. 


Alexander's conquest of Egypt in 332 b.c.e. had been part of a larger 
process that extended Macedonian rule and Greek culture over the whole 
of the area from the Mediterranean Sea to western India. Within a cen- 


tury, however, the area of Greco-Macedonian influence had begun to 
shrink as new powers — most notably Rome in the west and Parthia in 
the east — emerged on the historical scene. By 50 b.c.e., only Ptolemaic 
Egypt survived among the successor states of Alexander's empire. 

Although Egypt had survived, the kingdom Cleopatra inherited had 
been greatly weakened. Stripped of its external possessions, wracked by 
almost chronic dynastic strife, and nearly bankrupt, Egypt was a tempt- 
ing prize for ambitious Roman politicians. From the moment of her ac- 
cession in 50 b.c.e., Cleopatra struggled to reverse Egypt's decline, and 
she enjoyed considerable success. But while Egypt's bleak prospects 
brightened considerably during her reign, Cleopatra was realistic enough 
to realize that maintaining complete independence from Rome was not 
possible. Ensuring the security of Egypt by making it indispensable to the 
success of Roman plans in the eastern Mediterranean was possible, how- 
ever, and her efforts throughout her reign were intended to achieve that 

Cleopatra's alliances with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony brought 
temporary relief from the threat of Roman annexation and restoration to 
Egyptian authority of much of the empire of her ancestors. She also re- 
stored stability to the kingdom's internal life. Her admittedly ruthless vic- 
tory over her siblings in the struggle for the throne and the proclamation 
of Caesarion as pharaoh raised the possibility of a peaceful succession for 
the first time in almost a century. Able administration also restored 
Egypt's economic strength to the point that Cleopatra was able to finance 
Antony's Parthian expedition and much of the final struggle with Octa- 
vian. Even after her death, Egypt's remaining wealth was still great 
enough to enable Octavian to carry through many of his reforms at Rome 
without having to resort to the sort of brutal measures that had charac- 
terized the reign of the dictator Sulla and the Second Triumvirate. 

While Cleopatra's goals for Egypt were realistic, they also represented 
a gamble with high stakes. They were achievable but beyond the power 
of Egypt alone. Her father's experience had taught her that success was 
impossible without the support of Roman patrons and protectors, and in 
that she was unlucky. She gained recognition for her claim to the throne 
and the coveted status of friend of the Roman people in 46 b.c.e. from 
Julius Caesar, only to be threatened with loss of both as a result of his 
assassination less than two years later. Similarly, the renewal of civil war 
in 43 b.c.e. forced her to choose a new patron from the members of the 

Conclusion: Queen and Symbol 65 

Second Triumvirate. Calculation, propinquity, and Octavian's unremit- 
ting hostility to Caesarion combined to make Antony the obvious 
choice. The failure of Antony's Parthian and Actian campaigns, how- 
ever, sealed her fate and that of Egypt as well. For the rest of antiquity, 
Egypt would be a province of the Roman Empire. Although Octavian 
and his successors were acclaimed as pharaohs, no Roman emperors 
would rule there and few even visited Egypt. 


With the stakes so high and the consequences so great, it is not sur- 
prising that the historical Cleopatra was quickly replaced by the symbol. 
Octavian allowed her to be buried in royal style with Antony and per- 
mitted her statues to survive in return for a bribe from one of her friends. 
Even more remarkable, her Egyptian cult — alone of the Ptolemies — sur- 
vived well into late antiquity. In the end, however, Romans and not 
Egyptians created the image of Cleopatra, which powerfully influenced 
writing about her for the next two millennia. 

The Roman image of Cleopatra originated in the virulent propaganda 
campaign Octavian mounted against her as part of his preparation for his 
war against Antony. Octavian's motives in developing his propaganda 
campaign were tactical. Rome had endured decades of civil war. As a re- 
sult, he had at all costs to avoid conveying the impression that his strug- 
gle with Antony meant that Romans were to fight Romans yet again, 
especially since Antony still commanded a wide following in Italy. His 
solution was to ignore Antony and focus Roman suspicion and hostility 
on Cleopatra instead. 

The best propaganda is the simplest and that was true of Octavian's. 
Two themes dominated it. First, Antony was no longer master of his des- 
tiny but was totally subservient to Cleopatra. She had used sex to entrap 
him and lure him away from the beneficent influence of his wife Octavia. 
Now, she was forcing him to act against Rome, giving her and her chil- 
dren territories belonging to the Roman people and raising armies to in- 
vade Italy. Second and even worse, Cleopatra's goal was not the welfare 
of Egypt but the subjection of Rome to Egypt through the use of her tool, 

As Octavian defined the meaning of the conflict, what was at stake 
was nothing less than the survival of Italian culture and values. Should 


Cleopatra's "evil" plans succeed and were she to give orders from the 
Capitol as she was supposed to have desired, Romans would "degenerate 
into Egyptians" 1 just as had happened to the Macedonians. Fortunately, 
Romans were told, she failed. Octavian's "glorious victory" at the Battle 
of Actium and Cleopatra's and Antony's subsequent deaths ended the 
"threat." The propaganda offensive against her not only continued after 
her death but intensified. It had, however, a new focus and character. In- 
stead of an immediate enemy to be defeated, Cleopatra was transformed 
into a symbol of all the forces that threatened Octavian's new order. 

The transformation began immediately after Cleopatra's death. As the 
ruler of Egypt, Octavian had to define his attitude to his new realm. Al- 
though he had granted her request to be buried in royal style with 
Antony, he openly asserted the superiority of Roman values and tradi- 
tions to those of Cleopatra and the Ptolemies. So, according to the third- 
century c.e. Roman historian Cassius Dio, 2 when Octavian visited the 
tomb of Alexander, he ignored the tombs of the Ptolemies because he 
"wished to see a king, not corpses"; and he similarly refused to visit the 
Apis bull because "he was accustomed to worship gods, not cattle." Fi- 
nally, while priests assigned him the traditional titles of a pharaoh and 
he was depicted in pharaonic regalia sacrificing to the gods on the walls 
of Egyptian temples, he refused to be crowned according to Egyptian tra- 

Octavian also quickly put the new image of Cleopatra on display when 
he returned to Rome in 29 b.c.e. As Julius Caesar had done in 46 b.c.e., 
Octavian celebrated his conquest of Egypt with a spectacular triumph at 
Rome. Cleopatra's suicide deprived him of the opportunity to lead her 
into the city in chains. She was present symbolically, however, in the 
form of a tableau, which depicted for the first time the story that she 
died from the bite of a cobra, and her children by Antony did march in 
the procession. Shortly afterward, Octavian built a great monument on 
the site of his military camp at the new city of Nicopolis (victory city) 
to commemorate forever his defeat of the threat to Rome posed by 
Cleopatra and Antony. Reliefs sculpted with scenes from his triumph 
decorated it and the bronze rams of the thirty-six ships his forces cap- 
tured in the battle were mounted on a huge wall two hundred feet long. 
Coins with the motto Aegypta capta — "Egypt has been taken captive" — 
depicting Octavian's head on the obverse and typical Egyptian symbols 

Conclusion: Queen and Symbol 67 

such as a crocodile on the reverse spread the message throughout the em- 

The miracle was that Octavian's propaganda also inspired great liter- 
ature. In the ideology of late-first-century b.c.e. Rome, the Battle of Ac- 
tium marked the end of the era of the Roman civil wars and the return 
of peace. Not surprisingly, the battle was celebrated by most of the writ- 
ers patronized by the emperor Augustus. The main themes already ap- 
pear in the early 20s b.c.e. in the works of the poet Horace and reappear 
in the other great Augustan writers. As in the prewar propaganda, the 
Augustan writers portrayed Antony as little more than Cleopatra's tool, 
whose fate was sealed the moment he met her. In his monumental his- 
tory of Rome, the historian Livy explained every misstep of Antony's final 
years as motivated by his mad love for Cleopatra. 

Cleopatra by contrast acquired a kind of grandeur, becoming a worthy 
foe for Octavian to defeat. She was portrayed as an enemy on the grand 
scale, one as dangerous as any in Roman history, consumed by her lust 
and driven by her ambition to rule Rome. In the words of the poet Prop- 
ertius, "the harlot queen of licentious Canopus, the one disgrace branded 
on Philip's line, dared to pit barking Anubis against our Jupiter and to 
force the Tiber to endure the threats of the Nile." Her victory would have 
meant the end of all that Rome had achieved. Again Propertius: "What 
profit now is it to have broken the axes of that Tarquin whose proud life 
gave him a title derived from it, had we been fated to bear a woman's 
yoke?" When her plans failed, she faced death like a hero. The poet Ho- 
race marveled that Cleopatra, faced with the certainty of a humiliating 
death after marching in Octavian's triumph, "dared even to gaze with 
serene face upon her fallen palace, courageous, too, to handle poisonous 
asps, that she might draw black venom to her heart." 3 

Following Octavian's lead, the great Augustan writers set the agenda 
for later accounts of Cleopatra, but repetition smoothed out the com- 
plexity of their picture. The second c.e. biographer Plutarch still pro- 
vided a well-rounded portrait of the queen in his Life of Antony, but he 
was an exception. Most ignored the heroic aspects of the Augustan pic- 
ture, even blaming her cowardice for Antony's defeat at Actium. What 
resulted were accounts reduced largely to increasingly vituperative refer- 
ences to her sexuality and greed. So the mid-first-century c.e. poet Lucan 
described her in the Pharsalia, his historical epic on the civil war, as "the 


shame of Egypt, the fatal Fury of Latium, whose unchastity cost Rome 
dear", while Cassius Dio characterized her in his great history of Rome 
as "a woman of insatiable lust and greed." 4 

The Roman view of Cleopatra was summed up for the next millen- 
nium and beyond by the fourth century c.e. author of a capsule biogra- 
phy of the queen: 

Cleopatra, daughter of Ptolemy, king of the Egyptians, defeated by 
Ptolemy, her brother and husband, whom she wished to cheat of the 
kingdom, came to Caesar in Alexandria in the midst of civil war. 
She obtained Ptolemy's kingdom and his death from Caesar through 
her beauty and sex. She was so lustful that she often prostituted her- 
self, so beautiful that many men purchased a night with her at the 
cost of their life. Later, she married Antony and suffered defeat with 
him. After she falsely informed him that she had committed suicide, 
she died in her tomb from the bite of snakes. 5 

The hostile Roman image of Cleopatra survived because it reinforced 
powerful cultural prejudices and fears. Men feared the potential threat to 
the traditional order posed by women who could control their lives and 
their sexuality and use it to usurp the roles of men. In the case of Cleopa- 
tra, these fears were heightened by Roman suspicion of ethnic and cul- 
tural miscegenation. For example, in the Aeneid — Rome's national 
epic — the poet Virgil modeled the Carthaginian queen Dido, who threat- 
ens to frustrate the founding of Rome by seducing the Trojan hero Ae- 
neas, on Cleopatra. Such fears were not limited to antiquity, and 
reappeared in the Renaissance. It was enshrined in the Italian humanist 
Giovanni Boccaccio's pioneering biography of the queen and repeated by 
generations of writers and artists right up to the present, reaching its cli- 
max in the spectacular line of cinematic Cleopatras extending from 
Theda Bara to Elizabeth Taylor. 

To be sure there were exceptions to the hostile image of Cleopatra, 
but they were rare. Chaucer, for example, idiosyncratically celebrated her 
fidelity to Antony in The Legend of Good Women, and Shakespeare drew 
on Plutarch's Life of Antony to draw a fully rounded picture of her as a 
woman in Antony and Cleopatra, while George Bernard Shaw neutralized 
the image by imagining Cleopatra as an inexperienced teenager in Caesar 

Conclusion: Queen and Symbol 

and Cleopatra. It is the hallmark of symbols, however, that they can be 
used for purposes different from those intended by their creators. 

Not surprisingly, Cleopatra's long struggle for autonomy for Egypt and 
herself made her useful as a symbol for social and ethnic groups who saw 
themselves as victims of repressive establishments. That already in an- 
tiquity some Egyptians appropriated her as a symbol of resistance to Rome 
is suggested by the mummy of a young woman named Cleopatra, who 
lived in Thebes in the second century c.e. and whose mother was named 
Kandake after the Nubian queen who fought Rome to a standstill less 
than a decade after Cleopatra's death. A little over a century and a half 
later, Zenobia, the Arab queen of Palmyra who raised most of the Near 
East against Rome and even conquered Egypt, claimed descent from 
Cleopatra. More recently, feminist historians have viewed Cleopatra as 
the paradigm of a woman who is a historical actor in her own right. So 
Grace Macurdy noted in her pioneering study of Hellenistic queens that 
"she was, whatever the mixture of her blood, the last royal Macedonian, 
and in her their glory ends in a sunset of splendor." 6 The most forthright 
in claiming Cleopatra for their own, however, have been African Amer- 

For much of the twentieth century c.e., African American writers have 
claimed that Cleopatra was part Egyptian and that if she lived in the 
United States, she would be considered black according to the infamous 
"one drop" rule — that is, that even one drop of "black blood" makes a 
person black. 7 The theory has enjoyed widespread popularity, particularly 
in popular culture. Not only does viewing Cleopatra as black allow 
African Americans to claim as their own one of the most famous indi- 
viduals in ancient history, but it also provides a platform from which to 
critique mainstream American culture. A good example is the blax- 
ploitation film Cleopatra Jones in which a black female super-spy exposes 
police brutality against the Los Angeles black community. 8 

Criticism of the theory that Cleopatra was black has been fierce and 
for understandable reasons. 9 Evidence supporting the theory, as the crit- 
ics insist, is thin, consisting only of Strabo's claim that Cleopatra was "il- 
legitimate," the sources' silence concerning the identity of Cleopatra's 
grandmother and mother, and the assumption that in the first century 
b.c.e. all persons classified as Egyptian were black. Applying a ninteenth- 
century American definition of "blackness" to ancient Egyptians and 


Greeks, who did not classify peoples by race, is, however, anachronistic, 
so it is not surprising that until recently, most historians have rejected 
this interpretation of Cleopatra 10 and continued to view her as of "pure" 
Macedonian ancestry. 

Yet the question underlying the African American reading of Cleopa- 
tra remains valid: "Who wrote the books?" 11 For almost two millennia, 
historians have been forced to rely almost entirely on sources written by 
her enemies to reconstruct the biography of the last of the Ptolemies. As 
the recent publication of a decree on a papyrus signed by Cleopatra in- 
dicates, archaeology offers the possibility that Cleopatra may again speak 
in her own voice. Hopefully, the discovery and exploration of the sub- 
merged remains of her palace in Alexandria harbor will fulfill that prom- 
ise and finally replace Cleopatra the symbol with Cleopatra the queen. 



Figures in the 

Reign of 

Cleopatra VII 

The sixteen brief biographies in this section deal with figures who are 
important for understanding the life of Cleopatra VII. Because the events 
of Cleopatra's reign intersected both Ptolemaic and Roman history, these 
figures include both Greeks and Romans. Also included, moreover, are 
brief accounts of the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis and the Greco- 
Egyptian god Sarapis, which played major roles in the cultural history of 
Ptolemaic Egypt. 

Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.E.) 

Alexander III of Macedon was born in 356 b.c.e., the first child of 
Philip II (382-336 b.c.e.) and his principal wife, Olympias. As heir to 
the throne of Macedon, he was trained by his father for his role as king. 
Philip assigned the philosopher Aristotle to oversee his education. He 
also made sure that Alexander had military experience, giving him com- 
mand of the cavalry in the decisive battle of Chaeronea in 338 b.c.e. that 
established Macedonian authority in Greece. Alexander was, therefore, 
ready to assume power when Philip was assassinated in the summer of 
336 b.c.e. 

Alexander inherited a reformed and strengthened Macedonian army 
and his father's plans for the invasion of the Persian Empire. During the 
first two years of his reign, Alexander consolidated his power, brutally 

72 Biographies: Significant Figures 

crushing a rebellion by the Greek city of Thebes and securing approval 
by the Greeks of the war against Persia and his position as its commander. 
He then crossed into Asia in the spring of 334 b.c.e. with an army of 
about thirty-five thousand men. During the next decade, Alexander cam- 
paigned as far as western India before a mutiny by his troops forced him 
to return to the west, where he died in Babylon in June 323 b.c.e. 

Alexander's Persian campaign divides into three distinct phases. The 
first phase, which lasted from 334 b.c.e. to 330 b.c.e., included the great 
set battles of Granicus, Issus, and Gaugamela and ended with the de- 
struction of the Persian capital Perepolis and the assassination of the Per- 
sian king Darius III by his own officers. The second phase lasted from 
330 b.c.e. to 327 b.c.e. These three years were spent campaigning in cen- 
tral Asia and included some of the most difficult fighting in the whole 
campaign. During this period, Alexander adopted various aspects of Per- 
sian royal ceremonial practice despite strong Macedonian and Greek op- 
position in order to attract Iranian support in the face of fierce guerrilla 
resistance in central Asia. The final phase of the campaign extended from 
327 b.c.e. to the summer of 323 b.c.e. and included the two years Alexan- 
der spent in India, his disastrous return to Mesopotamia through the 
deserts of Baluchistan, and his death at Babylon. 

Alexander's involvement with Egypt was brief. It began with the sur- 
render of Egypt by its last Persian satrap (governor) in the winter of 332/1 
b.c.e. and ended with Alexander's departure for the interior of the Per- 
sian Empire in April 331 b.c.e. The highpoint of these few months was 
Alexander's recognition as son of Ammon by the priests of the temple of 
Ammon in the oasis of Siwah, an identification that radically changed 
his conception of himself and the nature of his kingship. Alexander also, 
however, established good relations with the Egyptian priesthood by sac- 
rificing to Apis and other Egyptian gods, and founded Alexandria as a 
Greek city and began its construction. Alexander's conquest of Egypt, 
therefore, was of fundamental importance for his reign and those of the 
Ptolemies, who succeeded him. 

Antony (Marcus Antonius) (83-30 B.C.E.) 

Antony was born in 83 b.c.e. into a distinguished Roman political 
family. Through his mother, he was related to the family of Julius Cae- 
sar. His grandfather and father received the first of the extraordinary mil- 

Biographies: Significant Figures 73 

itary commands that played a significant role in weakening the republic 
in the first century b.c.e. 

Antony's own career began in the 50s b.c.e. He was a successful cav- 
alry officer during the governorship of Syria of Aulus Gabinius (57-54 
b.c.e.), taking part in campaigns in Palestine and Egypt. He is reported 
to have moderated the extent of Ptolemy XII's retaliation against his en- 
emies after his restoration to the throne. Legend also claimed that he met 
and fell in love with the fifteen- year-old Cleopatra at the time of her fa- 
ther's return, but that is unlikely. Antony's career rapidly improved after 
he joined the army of Julius Caesar in Gaul. Except for a year (53/2 b.c.e.) 
during which he defended Caesar's interests in Rome as tribune, Antony 
remained in Gaul until 50 b.c.e. 

Antony's relations with Caesar grew closer in the 40s b.c.e. In 47 b.c.e. 
he held the office of Master of the Horse, Caesar's chief deputy during 
his first dictatorship; and three years later he was Caesar's colleague in 
the consulship. After Caesar's death, he assumed the leadership of the 
Caesarian faction and arranged a truce between the Caesarians and the 
Senate. He initially underestimated the threat posed by Octavian and 
was almost eliminated by him and his senatorial allies in 43 b.c.e. The 
support of Lepidus, the governor of Gaul, however, enabled him to sur- 
vive. Together with Octavian and Lepidus he formed the Second Tri- 
umvirate. He and his allies eliminated their enemies at Rome and built 
up their financial resources by conducting a wide-ranging proscription. 
A year later Antony's military skill and leadership was instrumental in 
defeating the senatorial forces led by Brutus and Cassius in the Battle of 

Antony was at the peak of his prestige and power immediately after 
the Battle of Philippi. As a result, he took Gaul and the rich provinces 
of the eastern Mediterranean as his share of the empire, and he spent 
much of 41 b.c.e. reorganizing the entire territory from Greece to Egypt, 
confirming or replacing rulers and collecting indemnities from those who 
had supported Brutus and Cassius. A year later, the outbreak of war in 
Italy led by his wife and brother led him to the brink of hostilities with 
Octavian. War was avoided and peace was confirmed by his marriage to 
Octavian 's sister Octavia, by whom he had two daughters, Antonia Major 
and Antonia Minor. Throughout the 30s b.c.e., Antony's position rela- 
tive to Octavian's steadily declined. War finally broke out in 32 b.c.e., 
ending with the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra's naval forces at Actium 

74 Biographies: Significant Figures 

in 31 b.c.e. and their suicides a year later. Ironically, Antony's bloodline 
outlasted that of Octavian since his descendants included the emperors 
Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. 

Arsinoe II (316-c. 270 B.C.E.) 

Arsinoe was the eldest child of Ptolemy I and his second wife, 
Berenike. She was born on the Aegean island of Kos in 316 b.c.e. Like 
other Macedonian princesses, Arsinoe was a valuable asset in the polit- 
ical struggles of her father. In c. 300 b.c.e., Ptolemy arranged her mar- 
riage to the sixty-year-old Lysimachos, ruler of Thrace, in order to seal 
an alliance directed against Ptolemy's enemies Seleukos I and Demetrios, 
the son of Antigonos Monophthalmos (the one-eyed), who had almost 
reunited Alexander's empire. 

Lysimachos was polygamous, and at first the young Arsinoe was only 
one of his several known wives. The Egyptian alliance, however, 
strengthened her position at court, and Arsinoe's prominence and influ- 
ence grew rapidly during the 290s and 280s b.c.e. By the late 280s b.c.e., 
she had become Lysimachos' principal wife, and the old king had cho- 
sen one of her sons — probably the eldest, Lysimachos — to be his heir. 

Evidence of her influence is provided by her financing the construction 
of the Arsinoeion on Samothrace and Lysimachos' gift to her of the Black 
Sea city Heraklea Pontika after he suppressed the city's tyrants on the pre- 
text they murdered their mother and his former wife, Amastris. Herak- 
leote tradition blamed Arsinoe for Lysimachos' seizure of their city, and 
claimed that her governor ruled it harshly. Historians also blamed her for 
instigating the struggle over the succession that roiled Lysimachos' court 
in the late 280s b.c.e. and finally led to his death, alleging that she brought 
about the death of his eldest Agathokles by falsely telling his father that 
he had tried to seduce her. 

Lysimachos' death at the battle of Korupedion in 281 b.c.e. under- 
mined the position of Arsinoe and her sons. At first she tried to secure 
her position by marrying her half brother Ptolemy Keraunos (thunder- 
bolt), who had seized the throne of Macedon. The marriage, however, 
was a failure. After Ptolemy Keraunos murdered two of her sons, Arsinoe 
fled with her surviving son, Ptolemy, first to the north Aegean island of 
Samothrace and then to Egypt. 

Biographies: Significant Figures 75 

Arsinoe's arrival in Egypt coincided with the outbreak of political tur- 
moil at the court of her full brother Ptolemy II. Although the details are 
lost, the struggles ended only in the late 270s b.c.e., when Ptolemy II di- 
vorced and exiled his present wife — Lysimachos' daughter and Arsinoe's 
stepdaughter Arsinoe I — and married his sister. Ptolemy IPs motives for 
marrying Arsinoe are unknown, but his decision was successful as Arsi- 
noe proved to be a popular and influential queen. She and her brother 
became the center of a new royal cult, being deified as the Theoi 
Philadelphoi (the sibling loving gods), and she was the first queen to re- 
ceive cult in Egyptian temples. By the time of her death c. 270 b.c.e., 
her influence at court, particularly on Ptolemaic policy in Greece, was 
recognized throughout the Greek world. Later queens — including 
Cleopatra VII, who modeled her Egyptian crowns on those worn by her — 
revered Arsinoe II as the prototype of the active queen. 

Berenike IV (early 70s-55 B.C.E.) and Arsinoe IV 
(60s-40 B.C.E.) 

The women of the last Ptolemies were as formidable as the men, so it 
is not surprising that Cleopatra's most important rivals were her sisters, 
Berenike IV and Arsinoe IV. 

Berenike IV was Cleopatra's elder sister and the only child of Ptolemy 
XII and his sister-wife Cleopatra V Tryphaina, born most likely in the 
early 70s b.c.e. Nothing is known of the early years of her life until she 
suddenly emerged as a rival to her father in 58 b.c.e. In that year the 
Alexandrian Greeks, furious at Ptolemy XII's acquiescence in the Roman 
annexation of Cyprus and the suicide of its king, proclaimed her and her 
mother joint rulers while Ptolemy XII was absent in Rome. 

The joint rule of Berenike IV and her mother lasted only until some- 
time in 57 b.c.e., when her mother disappears from the sources, presum- 
ably having died. With Ptolemy XII likely to return and the Romans' 
attitude toward their coup uncertain, the Alexandrians sought a husband 
for Berenike. Their first choices were sons of the last Seleukid kings, but 
one died and the second was vetoed by Aulus Gabinius, the governor of 
Syria, since the union of Egypt and Syria would not be in Roman inter- 
ests. A third individual, who claimed to be an illegitimate relation of the 
Seleukids, lasted less than a week as Berenike 's husband before his vul- 

76 Biographies: Significant Figures 

garity so disgusted her that she had him murdered. More successful was 
her marriage to Archelaos, who claimed to be a son of Rome's great 
enemy Mithridates VI of Pontus but was more likely related to his gen- 
eral Archelaos. 

Berenike IV's brief reign ended tragically in 55 b.c.e., when Gabinius 
invaded Egypt and restored Ptolemy XII to power. Archelaos died de- 
fending Egypt against the Roman invaders, and Berenike IV was exe- 
cuted shortly after by her father. Seven years after the death of Berenike 
IV, Cleopatra faced an equally dangerous rival in her younger sister, Ar- 
sinoe IV 

Arsinoe IV first appears in the sources in the summer of 48 b.c.e. As 
part of his settlement of the dispute between Cleopatra and her brother 
Ptolemy XIII, Caesar assigned Cyprus to Arsinoe IV and her younger 
brother, the future Ptolemy XIV Frustrated by Caesar's failure to actually 
transfer Cyprus to her control, Arsinoe IV — with her tutor, the eunuch 
Ganymedes — fled to the Egyptian army that was advancing on Alexan- 
dria and was proclaimed queen. When Ganymedes arranged the assassi- 
nation of the army's commander, Achillas, Arsinoe IV became the heart 
of the resistance to Caesar. 

Caesar failed to split the resistance by releasing Ptolemy XIII, as the 
young king joined forces with his sister. Their joint reign quickly ended 
with Ptolemy XIII's death in the Battle of the Nile and Arsinoe IV's cap- 
ture by Caesar's forces. Although Arsinoe IV appeared in Caesar's tri- 
umph in 46 b.c.e., the sympathy of the Roman populace persuaded 
Caesar to send her into exile in the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus in- 
stead of killing her. Six years later, however, Antony ordered her execu- 
tion as part of his agreement with Cleopatra, thereby removing the last 
threat to her power in Egypt. 

Cleopatra Selene (40-c. 5 B.C.E.) 

Cleopatra's death did not mean the end of her family. She had four 
children: Caesarion by Julius Caesar, and the twins Cleopatra Selene and 
Alexander Helios and their younger brother Ptolemy Philadelphos by 
Mark Antony. Although Octavian rebuffed her efforts to save her king- 
dom for her children and murdered Caesarion, he spared the twins and 
Ptolemy Philadelphos. 

Biographies: Significant Figures 77 

Little is known of their lives before they came into Octavian's power. 
Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios first appear in 37 b.c.e., when 
Antony recognized them as his own at Antioch. Cleopatra also probably 
engaged the philosopher and historian Nikolaos of Damaskos as her chil- 
dren's primary tutor. Three years later, they took center stage at the so- 
called Donations of Alexandria, the carefully staged pageant Cleopatra 
and Antony put on at Alexandria as part of the celebration of his con- 
quest of Armenia. Cleopatra Selene is not mentioned in Plutarch's ac- 
count of the division of territories that took place then, but other sources 
indicate that she received Kyrenaika and part of Crete. Coins issued with 
an image of a crocodile on the reverse side commemorated her author- 
ity over her new realm. 

Cleopatra Selene's reign over Kyrenaika and Crete ended in 30 b.c.e. 
Octavian introduced her and her brothers to Rome during his triumph 
the next year. A relief recently discovered in the ruins of his monument 
at Nicopolis shows the children riding with him in his chariot during the 
triumph. Afterward, Octavia took charge of their rearing, while Octa- 
vian treated them as part of his extended family. The disappearance of 
her brothers from the historical record after the triumph suggests that un- 
like their sister, they died soon after their arrival in Rome. 

Roman girls were considered ready for marriage in their teens, and 
Cleopatra Selene was no exception. At Octavia's suggestion, Octavian 
arranged her marriage to Juba II, the young king of the recently con- 
quered kingdom of Mauretania in north Africa. The date of the marriage 
is unknown, but it probably occurred between Juba's accession in 25 b.c.e. 
and 19 b.c.e., when coins show Juba and her as rulers of Mauretania. 

During the almost two decades of her marriage, Cleopatra Selene and 
Juba transformed the Mauretanian capital of Iol into a center of Greek 
and Roman culture named Caesaria. She also tried to maintain the legacy 
of her mother, issuing coins with types similar to those struck during her 
reign over Kyrenaika and Crete and naming her son Ptolemy. The line 
of Cleopatra did not end with Cleopatra Selene's death about 5 b.c.e. 
Two children of Cleopatra Selene and Juba are known. Her daughter, 
Drusilla, married a freedman of the emperor Claudius, who later became 
procurator of Judea and in that capacity remanded St. Paul to Rome for 
trial; while her son, Ptolemy, ruled Mauretania from Juba's death in 23 
or 24 c.e. until his murder by the emperor Caligula sometime between 

78 Biographies: Significant Figures 

37 and 41 c.e. With them finally ended the long line of the descendants 
of Ptolemy I. 

Cleopatra Thea (the Goddess) (c. 165-121/0 B.C.E.) 

One of the most characteristic features of Cleopatra's reign was the in- 
fluence on her actions of precedents provided by her ancestors. Most ob- 
vious is her interest in Ptolemy II and his wife Arsinoe II, but they were 
not the only ones. As her adoption of the title Thea Neotera — the 
Younger Goddess — indicates, also she was influenced by the example of 
her great aunt, Cleopatra Thea. 

Not only was this remarkable woman the wife of three Seleukid kings 
and the mother of three others, but she even briefly ruled the Seleukid 
empire in her own name, the only queen to do so in that kingdom's his- 
tory. Cleopatra Thea was born c. 165 b.c.e., the eldest daughter of 
Ptolemy VI Philometor and his sister-wife, Cleopatra II. Her extraordi- 
nary political career began in 150 b.c.e., when Ptolemy VI arranged her 
marriage to Alexander Balas as part of his plans to expand Ptolemaic in- 
fluence in the Seleukid kingdom. 

Balas proved an unsuitable tool, however. When his predecessor's son 
Demetrios II rebelled against him, the Seleukid kingdom fell into civil 
war. Ptolemy VI took advantage of the chaos to invade Syria in 148 
b.c.e., ostensibly to help Balas and his daughter. Their alliance quickly 
collapsed and Ptolemy switched his support and his daughter to 
Demetrios II. Three years later, both Ptolemy and Balas were dead, and 
Cleopatra Thea was securely ensconced in Antioch as Demetrios IPs 

The first phase of Cleopatra Thea's marriage to Demetrios II lasted six 
years, ending with his capture and imprisonment by the Parthians in 139 
b.c.e. It produced three children, the future kings Seleukos V (126/5 
b.c.e.) and Antiochos VIII Grypos (125-96 b.c.e.) and a daughter named 
Laodike. A year after Demetrios' imprisonment, Cleopatra Thea married 
her third husband — Demetrios IPs younger brother, Antiochos VII. This 
marriage produced four more children including another king, Antiochos 
IX Kyzikenos (115-95 b.c.e.). Her third marriage ended similarly to the 
second, as Antiochos VII was killed in 129 b.c.e. while trying unsuc- 
cessfully to win back Babylonia and Iran from the Parthians. Even worse, 
Demetrios II escaped from the Parthians and returned to Syria, resuming 

Biographies: Significant Figures 79 

his reign and his marriage to Cleopatra Thea after a twelve-year absence. 
Three years later, Demetrios II was killed in yet another civil war, 
and Cleopatra Thea seized the opportunity to assume power in her own 

Cleopatra Thea's unprecedented sole reign was limited in both time 
and extent, lasting less than a year and being limited to Phoenicia. Her 
break with tradition was too great, and by 125 b.c.e. she had been forced 
to associate her son Antiochos VIII with her as co-regent. On their joint 
coinage, however, she always took precedence over him, the inscription 
reading "Queen Cleopatra and King Antiochos." The life of this re- 
markable woman, whose career in many ways recalls that of Cleopatra 
VII, ended tragically in 121 b.c.e., when her son poisoned her, allegedly 
with the poison she had intended for him. 

Herod the Great (73-4 B.C.E.) 

Herod was born in 73 b.c.e. to an influential family in Idumea in 
southern Palestine that had converted to Judaism in the second century 
b.c.e. His family owed its political prominence to the decision of his fa- 
ther, Antipater, to support Pompey when he suppressed the Jewish 
monarchy in 63 b.c.e. and established Roman rule in Judaea. Antipater 
further strengthened his family's influence in 47 b.c.e. by providing troops 
to Caesar, who rewarded him by making him a Roman citizen and ap- 
pointing him procurator (governor) of Judea. 

Herod's rise to power also began in 47 b.c.e. when Antipater appointed 
him governor of Galilee. Herod survived by skillfully maneuvering 
through the complex politics of the 40s b.c.e. During the war that fol- 
lowed Caesar's death, Herod supported Cassius, the senatorial governor 
of Syria, who appointed him governor of Koile Syria in return. After the 
Battle of Philippi, however, Herod adroitly switched sides and succeeded 
in excusing himself and establishing good relations with Antony, 
who persuaded the Senate to recognize him as king of the Jews in 40 


Herod's remarkable political dexterity continued to be his salvation in 
the 30s b.c.e. Despite the Senate's decision in his favor, he was forced to 
take refuge in Alexandria in 40 b.c.e. because the Parthians had occu- 
pied Judea and placed his Hasmonean rival Antigonos II on the throne. 
Herod's initial relations with Cleopatra were good. She even tried to re- 

80 Biographies: Significant Figures 

cruit him into Egyptian service, offering him a military command against 
the Parthians. By 37 b.c.e., however, the Parthians had been expelled 
from Judea, and Antony had executed Antigonos and restored Herod to 
the throne instead of awarding the kingdom to Cleopatra. As a result, 
relations with Cleopatra deteriorated quickly. 

Antony's support continued to be critical to Herod's survival as 
Cleopatra schemed to gain control of Judea. For almost three years, she 
supported the claims of his Hasmonean rivals to the high priesthood, 
even forcing him to defend himself before Antony against charges of mur- 
der. Even though Antony exonerated him, Herod still had to make ter- 
ritorial concessions to Cleopatra. Herod could only take revenge for his 
frustration in his memoirs, boasting that he had rejected both Cleopa- 
tra's attempt to seduce him and his advisors' advice to assassinate her dur- 
ing her visit to Judea in 34 b.c.e. 

Ever the opportunist, Herod ensured his survival after the Battle of 
Actium by transferring his allegiance to Octavian, entertaining him in 
Judea and providing money and troops for his invasion of Egypt. Octa- 
vian rewarded Herod handsomely for his change of sides, confirming his 
position as king of the Jews, returning to him the territories Antony had 
given Cleopatra together with a number of additional cities, and even 
giving him Cleopatra's Gallic bodyguard. For the next twenty-six years, 
Herod ruled Judea as a loyal Roman client king. During those years, he 
carried out an extensive building program at home that included the sec- 
ond temple at Jerusalem, a splendid port at Caesaria, and numerous forts 
while acting as a patron of Hellenism throughout the eastern Mediter- 


Isis was one of the oldest and most important of Egyptian deities. Sis- 
ter and wife of Osiris and mother of Horos, she occupied a central place 
in the charter myth of Egyptian kingship. Ptolemaic patronage of her cult 
dated to the reign of Ptolemy II, who built a great temple in her honor 
on the island of Philae, south of the first cataract of the Nile. Because of 
her role as royal wife and mother, however, Ptolemaic queens especially 
honored her, most notably Cleopatra VII, who identified herself with Isis. 

According to Egyptian tradition, Isis was part of the Ennead of He- 
liopolis — the family of nine gods who created Egypt and gave birth to its 

Biographies: Significant Figures 81 

first kings: Atum, the sun god and creator; Shu, the god of air, and his 
wife Tefnut, the goddess of moisture; Geb, the god of the earth, his wife 
Nut, the goddess of the sky, and their children; Osiris, the god of vege- 
tation; his wife Isis, the goddess of magic; Seth, the god of the desert and 
things foreign; and his wife Nephthys. The focus of the myth was the 
conflict of Osiris and Seth over the kingship of Egypt. According to the 
story, Seth killed and dismembered Osiris, but Isis found and reassembled 
the scattered parts, magically reanimated them, and conceived Horos, the 
falcon-headed sky god. Horos defeated Seth in trial by combat, became 
king, and buried his father, who became king of the dead. In Egyptian 
belief, all subsequent Egyptian kings became Horos at their coronation 
and Osiris at their burial. Isis, whose name and hieroglyphic symbol in- 
dicate that she was the deified royal throne, is central to the myth since 
it was her magic that transformed the human king into the incarnation 
of Horos at his coronation and made it possible for him to perform the 
funeral rites that enabled his dead father to become Osiris. 

Isis was the longest lived of all Egyptian gods. Her cult survived well 
into late antiquity, ending only in 543 c.e. when the Roman emperor 
Justinian I ordered the great temple on the island of Philai to be closed. 
Not only did Isis' cult outlast all other Egyptian cults, but it spread 
throughout the Roman Empire. Isis changed dramatically, however, as 
her cult spread outside Egypt. Through syncretism, she was identified 
with a variety of Greek goddesses including Demeter, Aphrodite, Athena, 
Persephone, and Hera. As a result, Isis became a universal deity respon- 
sible for the creation of civilization, the patron of sailors, and the pro- 
tector of the family. At the same time, the significance of her connection 
to Osiris was revalued so that the emphasis fell on her ability to vanquish 
death through magic instead of her traditional role in the divine foun- 
dation of the Egyptian monarchy. In the process, she became the center 
of a mystery cult that offered salvation to her initiates and became a po- 
tent rival to Christianity. 

Julius Caesar (100-44 B.C.E.) 

Gaius Julius Caesar was born in Rome in 100 b.c.e. into an ancient 
patrician family that claimed descent from the goddess Venus and Ae- 
neas, the supposed Trojan founder of Rome. Despite its distinguished an- 
cestry, his family's political fortunes had long been in decline, until they 

82 Biographies: Significant Figures 

were revived by the marriage of Caesar's aunt to the influential politician 
and war hero Marius. 

Caesar's own political career began slowly. His family's connection to 
Marius and his allies brought him into conflict with the dictator Sulla in 
the late 80s b.c.e., but he survived. During the next decade, he studied 
rhetoric in Asia and saw military service in the same area. In the 60s 
b.c.e., his career significantly improved. The key to his success was the 
alliance he formed with the politician and financier Marcus Licinius 
Crassus. Thanks to Crassus' support, he was elected to the offices of pon- 
tifex maximus (high priest) of Rome and praetor. After his praetorship, 
he served as governor of Further Spain. 

Booty gained during his Spanish governorship enabled Caesar to pay 
off his debts and move to the forefront of Roman politics. Humiliated by 
the Senate's refusal to allow him to celebrate his triumph, he formed the 
First Triumvirate with Crassus and Pompey in 60 b.c.e. Elected consul 
for 59 b.c.e., Caesar gained a special command for himself covering II- 
lyria, Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy) and Transalpine Gaul (southern 
France) in a consulship marked by illegality. He spent the years 58 b.c.e. 
to 51 b.c.e. conquering the remainder of Gaul. He also conducted raids 
across the Rhine River into Germany and into southern Britain, thereby 
establishing precedents for later Roman military activity in both areas. 

Caesar's successes in Gaul threatened his partners in the First Tri- 
umvirate. When Crassus was killed in 54 b.c.e. while invading Parthia, 
Pompey sought security by allying with Caesar's enemies in the Senate. 
Relations between Caesar and Pompey steadily worsened until the civil 
war broke out in 49 b.c.e. Caesar quickly overran Italy, but Pompey suc- 
ceeded in escaping to Greece, where Caesar defeated him at the Battle 
of Pharsalus in 48 b.c.e. Caesar had no serious rivals after Pompey 's death 
in Egypt in the summer of 48 b.c.e. War in Egypt and campaigns in Ana- 
tolia, North Africa, and Spain against Pompey 's surviving supporters, 
however, delayed his return to Rome until 46 b.c.e. Less than two years 
later he was dead, assassinated by a senatorial conspiracy on March 15, 
44 b.c.e. 

Caesar's ultimate plans for Rome and its empire and for Cleopatra's 
role in it have mystified historians since antiquity. What is clear is that 
he became steadily more autocratic after Pompey 's death, holding both 
the consulship — Rome's highest office — every year and the dictator- 
ship — an extraordinary office that gave its holder virtually royal power — 

Biographies: Significant Figures 83 

first for ten years and then, just before his death, for life. These actions 
suggested to his assassins that he wished to be king, and his close rela- 
tionship to Cleopatra reinforced that belief. 

Octavia (69-11 B.C.E.) 

Octavia was the daughter of Gaius Octavius and Atia and the sister 
of Octavian. Born in 69 b.c.e., she was six years older than her brother. 
The sources assign her the role of the good wife in a morality play in 
which she and Cleopatra struggle for control of Antony's soul. In that 
drama, Octavia is portrayed as the good and beautiful wife, who offered 
Antony his last chance to save himself for Rome. 

The reality was different. Like other Roman aristocratic women, Oc- 
tavia's marriages were tools in the political plans of her male relatives — 
that is, her father and, later, her great uncle Julius Caesar and, of course, 
her brother. The pattern was already set in the 50s b.c.e. In 54 b.c.e. her 
father sought to advance his family's social and political position by ar- 
ranging her marriage to Gaius Claudius Marcellus, a member of an old 
and distinguished patrician family, by whom she had a son, Marcus 
Claudius Marcellus, and two daughters named Marcella. A year later, 
however, Julius Caesar suggested that she divorce Marcellus in order to 
replace his daughter, Julia, who had just died, as Pompey's wife. Pompey 
refused, but Marcellus understandably became one of Caesar's bitterest 

Octavia's marriage protected Marcellus until his death in 40 b.c.e. de- 
spite his hostility to Caesar. Instead of liberating her, widowhood merely 
made Octavia available for use in Octavian 's schemes. That same year, 
she married Antony to seal the reconciliation between him and her 
brother. Antony commemorated the marriage by having a coin issued 
with both their portraits on it, while the poet Virgil prophesied in his 
fourth Eclogue that their expected son would herald the birth of a new 
Golden Age. 

Octavia's marriage to Antony lasted for almost eight years and pro- 
duced two daughters: Antonia Maior (the elder) and Antonia Minor 
(the younger). At first, the marriage seemed promising. Octavia and 
Antony spent the winter of 39/8 b.c.e. in Athens, where Octavia be- 
came a patron of the city's philosophers and won the hearts of the Athe- 
nians, who identified her with Athena in a sacred marriage celebrated 

84 Biographies: Significant Figures 

by Antony. Her influence with Antony was still strong in 37 b.c.e. when 
he sent her to Italy to reaffirm the alliance with Octavian. It was, how- 
ever, to be the last time she saw her husband. A year later, when she 
tried to bring him reinforcements, he ordered her and their children to 
return to Italy. 

Ironically, the collapse of her marriage gave Octavia the freedom she 
had hitherto lacked. After returning to Rome, she lived in Antony's 
house in Rome and defended him against Octavian's slanders until 32 
b.c.e., when he formally divorced her and married Cleopatra. After 
Antony's death, she again became her brother's tool, raising Antony's 
children and watching her daughters being married to advance Augus- 
tus' plans. After the death in 23 b.c.e. of her beloved son Marcellus, who 
was being groomed to be Augustus' heir, Octavia went into a seclusion 
that only ended with her death in 1 1 b.c.e. 

Octavian (63 B.C.E.- 14 C.E.) 

Octavian was born Gaius Octavius in 63 b.c.e. to a prominent family 
in the Italian city of Velitrae, south of Rome. His father was the first 
member of his family to become a Roman Senator and hold high office 
at Rome, having attained the praetorship — the second ranking office in 
the Roman state. His mother came from a similar background and was 
the daughter of the sister of Julius Caesar. Octavian was, therefore, Cae- 
sar's grandnephew and closest surviving male relative. 

Caesar promoted Octavian's career in the early 40s b.c.e., taking him 
to Spain in 45 b.c.e. for the last military campaign of the civil war and 
adopting him as his son and heir in late 45 b.c.e. Octavian's position 
changed dramatically, however, after Caesar's assassination in March 44 
b.c.e. When Antony rebuffed his claim to Caesar's estate, Octavian found 
support among Caesar's veterans, and by 43 b.c.e., his political position 
was strong enough for him to be included with Antony and Marcus Lep- 
idus in the Second Triumvirate. 

During the next three years, Octavian emerged as one of the princi- 
pal figures in Roman politics. Although he played a secondary role in the 
defeat of Brutus and Cassius and the Republican cause at the Battle of 
Philippi in 42 b.c.e., he quickly eclipsed Lepidus, becoming by 40 b.c.e. 
the dominant member of the Second Triumvirate in the west. Antony's 
marriage to his sister Octavia confirmed the new distribution of power. 

Biographies: Significant Figures 85 

Octavian's influence at Rome steadily increased during the first half of 
the 30s b.c.e. while Antony's declined. By mid-decade, he had eliminated 
his chief rivals in the west, Sextus Pompey and Marcus Lepidus, and was 
ready to challenge Antony directly. Octavian adroitly used the collapse 
of Antony's marriage to Octavia and Roman hostility to Cleopatra to set 
the stage for the war that ended in his victory in the Battle of Actium 
in 31 b.c.e. and the conquest of Egypt the following year. 

Antony's and Cleopatra's deaths left Octavian as master of the Roman 
Empire. Three years later, in early 27 b.c.e., he redefined his position in 
the Roman state, formally ending the Second Triumvirate and officially 
restoring civil authority to the Senate while retaining a commanding po- 
sition within the state under his new name, Augustus. During the re- 
mainder of his reign, he almost doubled the size of the empire and 
strengthened his control of the state, thanks to his control of the Roman 
Army and a complex set of powers granted him by the Senate that al- 
lowed him to influence virtually all political and administrative functions. 

Egypt played a special role in Octavian's new system. Although his at- 
tempt to conquer the kingdom of Kush failed in the 20s b.c.e., his con- 
trol of Egypt remained secure. Egypt was governed by an appointed 
prefect, and Senators could visit it only with his permission. Egypt's trib- 
ute and grain surplus remained under his control, giving him both a 
source of discretionary funds and control of Rome's grain supply. 

Plutarch (c. 40s-c. 120s C.E.) 

The dearth of primary sources for the reign of Cleopatra means that 
historians have to rely on secondary sources for their information. The 
variety of the available sources is wide and includes Appian — the second- 
century c.e. historian of Rome's wars — and Cassius Dio — the third-cen- 
tury c.e. Roman historian. The most important source, however, is the 
philosopher and moralist Plutarch. Not only is he the most informative 
source of information about Cleopatra, but his interpretation of the 
Egyptian queen has profoundly influenced all accounts of her reign since 
the Renaissance. 

Plutarch was born in central Greece in the Boeotian city of Chaeronea 
in the 40s c.e. and died in the 120s c.e. Plutarch was the most promi- 
nent Platonic philosopher and moralist of his time, and a prolific author 
with over two hundred known works. Although he devoted most of his 

Biographies: Significant Figures 

life to service to his home city and to the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, 
Plutarch had numerous influential Roman friends and received many 
high honors, including the privileges of a consul and the rank of procu- 
rator (governor) of Greece. His works were wide-ranging and varied in 
subject, including essays on moral and antiquarian subjects and biogra- 
phical studies. 

The most important of his works was Parallel Lives. In its present form, 
it consists of a series of forty-four paired lives of major Greek and Roman 
historical figures extending from the legendary founders of Athens and 
Rome to the reign of the emperor Augustus. Plutarch's purpose in writ- 
ing Parallel Lives was to provide exemplary models of moral lives and to 
prove to his Greek contempories that Rome had produced heroic figures 
comparable to the greatest figures in Greek history. 

Although Plutarch refers to Cleopatra in the lives of Pompey, Julius 
Caesar, and Mark Antony, it is Life of Antony that provides the bulk of 
our information concerning her. Life of Antony is unique for its length — 
it is the longest of the lives — and for its focus. Unlike the other Parallel 
Lives, the pair of Antony and Demetrios the Besieger were intended to 
provide examples of men of great talent who were ruined by their own 
personal flaws. So in Plutarch's analysis, Antony was a man of great po- 
litical and military ability and courage. Those virtues, however, were vi- 
tiated by his weakness for luxury and self-indulgence in sex and drink, 
which Cleopatra exploited for her own purposes. 

The richness of Plutarch's sources for Life of Antony — which included 
histories of Rome, the memoirs of the emperor Augustus and Cleopatra's 
doctor, and family traditions — enabled him to trace the relationship be- 
tween Antony and Cleopatra in great detail, from their first serious en- 
counter in 41 b.c.e. to their death a decade later. At the same time, his 
emphasis on the mixture of virtue and vice in Antony prevented him 
from providing merely a one-sided portrayal of Cleopatra as an unprin- 
cipled seductress. As a result, Plutarch provided later historians with an 
account of the Egyptian queen that was unique for its detail and com- 
plexity and is the basis for all modern biographies of her. 

Ptolemy I Soter (the Savior) (367/366-282 B.C.E.) 

Ptolemy I was born in Macedon in 367/366 b.c.e. He was the son of 
a noble named Lagos and a member of a family distantly related to the 

Biographies: Significant Figures 87 

Macedonian royal house. He was raised at the capital, Pella, and was one 
of Alexander the Great's oldest friends, even suffering exile for support- 
ing the prince's opposition to his father's plans. 

Ptolemy took part in Alexander's Persian campaign from its begin- 
ning in 334 b.c.e. to its end in 323 b.c.e. On the basis of his experi- 
ences, Ptolemy wrote a history of Alexander's reign that was favorable 
to the king and, although lost, is the source of much of our knowledge 
of the king. In 330 b.c.e., Alexander appointed him as a bodyguard — 
one of the eight elite cavalry officers who protected the king in battle 
and were his closest advisors. During the final years of the campaign, 
Ptolemy was assigned several independent commands and was wounded 
at least once in India. 

Ptolemy played a prominent role in the struggle over the succession 
to Alexander that broke out in the summer of 323 b.c.e., taking Egypt 
as his satrapy. Unlike the other bodyguards, however, Ptolemy opposed 
the continuation of the empire as a unified state. From 323 b.c.e. on- 
ward, he pursued an essentially defensive policy, intended to secure his 
control of Egypt. To that end, he assassinated Kleomenes of Naukratis, 
Alexander's unpopular satrap of Egypt, and stole Alexander's body, bring- 
ing it to Memphis for burial. This defiance of the Macedonian regent 
Perdikkas provoked an unsuccessful invasion of Egypt in which Perdikkas 

After Perdikkas' death, Ptolemy resumed his defensive policy. He re- 
fused an offer of the regency. While he joined the various alliances 
formed in opposition to Antigonos Monophthalmos' attempt to main- 
tain the unity of the empire and even declared himself king in 305 b.c.e., 
Ptolemy avoided direct involvement in most of the resulting conflicts in- 
cluding the decisive Battle of Ipsos in 301 b.c.e., where Antigonos died 
and, with him, the last hope of reuniting Alexander's empire. Instead, 
Ptolemy annexed the neighboring territories of Libya, Koile Syria, and 
Cyprus, and extended Egyptian influence in the Aegean. 

Little is known of the final years of Ptolemy's reign. His seizure of Koile 
Syria in 301 b.c.e. soured relations between him and Seleukos I, and led 
to the alliance with Lysimachos that sent his daughter Arsinoe to Thrace 
as Lysimachos' queen. As in the first half of his reign, however, Ptolemy 
avoided military action far from Egypt, focusing his efforts instead on de- 
veloping his kingdom. He laid the foundations of the Ptolemaic admin- 
istrative system and built extensively at Alexandria, beginning the 

Biographies: Significant Figures 

construction of the Pharos lighthouse and founding the Museum and Li- 
brary. He also encouraged Greek immigration and began the large-scale 
settlement of Jews in Egypt by settling prisoners captured in the conquest 
of Jerusalem in 307 b.c.e. He also ordered the creation of the god Sara- 
pis. Ptolemy finally died in 282 b.c.e., having first ensured the succession 
to his throne by making Ptolemy II — his son by his second wife, 
Berenike — his co-ruler. 

Ptolemy II Philadelphos (Sibling Lover) 
(308-246 B.C.E.) 

Ptolemy II was born on the Aegean island of Cos in 308 b.c.e., the 
younger child of Ptolemy I and his second wife, Berenike. Nothing is 
known of his early life until 285 b.c.e., when his father exiled his first 
wife, Eurydike, and their son, Ptolemy Keraunos, and made Ptolemy II his 
co-regent. Three years later, he became king on the death of Ptolemy I. 

Ptolemy IPs long reign was dominated by foreign affairs. Although re- 
lations between Ptolemy I and Seleukos I had become tense following 
the Egyptian king's occupation of Koile Syria in 301 b.c.e., the outbreak 
of hostilities was delayed until the accession of Ptolemy II, who fought 
three wars with the Seleukid rulers Antiochos I and Antiochos II. Hos- 
tilities did not remain confined to Ptolemaic and Seleukid forces but 
spilled over into Greece, where Ptolemy II supported Athens and Sparta 
in the Chremonidean War (267-262 b.c.e.), and Nubia, where he or- 
ganized large-scale elephant hunts in order to counter his Seleukid op- 
ponents' monopoly of Indian elephants. While Ptolemy II lost several 
major naval battles, he ultimately emerged victorious in his wars with 
the Seleukids. Not only did he preserve the territories he inherited from 
his father, but he expanded Ptolemaic holdings in the Aegean and north- 
ern Nubia and gained significant influence in Syria as a result of the mar- 
riage of his daughter Berenike to Antiochos II in the late 250s b.c.e. By 
the time of his death in 246 b.c.e., Egyptian influence extended through- 
out the eastern Mediterranean and reached westward to Sicily, Carthage, 
and even Rome. 

Ptolemy IPs reign was also of fundamental importance for the internal 
development of Ptolemaic Egypt. To finance his expansive foreign pol- 
icy, he reorganized and systematized the Egyptian administrative system, 
transforming key areas of the economy into government monopolies, in- 

Biographies: Significant Figures 89 

creasing taxes, and extending governmental supervision over the Egypt- 
ian temples and their revenues. He also strengthened the position of the 
royal family, establishing the tradition of royal incest by marrying his sis- 
ter Arsinoe II. He also created a focus of loyalty for his subjects in the 
dynastic cult by deifying his parents as the Theoi Soteres (savior gods). 
Finally, he became the first Ptolemy to be deified in his lifetime by asso- 
ciating himself with Arsinoe II after her death in the cult of the Theoi 
Philadelphoi (sibling loving gods). 

Ptolemy II was also famous in antiquity as a patron of culture. He com- 
pleted construction of the Pharos lighthouse and cultural centers in- 
cluding the Museum and Library as well as numerous Greek and Egyptian 
temples. He is reported to have sponsored the Greek translation of the 
Jewish Bible known as the Septuagint, and was the patron of numerous 
writers and intellectuals, including the poets Kallimakhos and Theokri- 
tos, the Egyptian historian Manetho, and the doctors Herophilos and Era- 
sistratos. Ptolemy IPs combination of an active foreign policy with 
far-reaching state oversight of the economy and culture inspired many 
later Ptolemaic rulers, including Cleopatra VII, who named her last son 
after him and sought to re-create his empire. 

Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos (the Young Dionysos) 
(late 2nd century-51 B.C.E.) 

Ptolemy XII was the son of Ptolemy IX Soter II and an unknown 
woman. The date of his birth is also unknown, but it probably fell within 
the last two decades of the second century b.c.e. Ptolemy XII's youth co- 
incided with the bitter struggle for the throne of Egypt between the two 
sons of Ptolemy VIII — his father, Ptolemy IX Soter II, and his uncle, 
Ptolemy X Alexander I. As a result, Ptolemy XII was forced to spend 
much of his early life in exile. 

Ptolemy XII's exile began in 103 b.c.e. when Cleopatra III sent him 
and his bother to the Aegean island of Kos for protection. The brothers' 
exile lasted for over two decades. Not all of it, however, was spent on Kos. 
In 86 b.c.e., they became pawns in the struggle for dominance of the east- 
ern Mediterranean between Rome and Mithridates VI of Pontus, when 
Mithridates occupied Kos, kidnapped the brothers, and engaged them to 
two of his daughters as part of a plan to extend his influence to Egypt. 

The brothers' fortunes changed for the better in 80 b.c.e. Infuriated 

90 Biographies: Significant Figures 

by his murder of the popular Cleopatra Berenike III, the Alexandrian 
Greeks assassinated Ptolemy XI Alexander III and summoned the broth- 
ers back from exile, making Ptolemy XII king of Egypt and his brother 
king of Cyprus. To consolidate his hold on power, Ptolemy XII followed 
tradition and married his sister Cleopatra Tryphaina by whom he had a 
daughter, Cleopatra Berenike IV. Later in the decade he formed a rela- 
tionship, which Greeks considered illegitimate, with another woman, 
possibly Egyptian, by whom he had four children: Cleopatra VII, Arsi- 
noe IV, Ptolemy XIII, and Ptolemy XIV 

The evidence for Ptolemy XII's long reign is limited but clearly indi- 
cates that it was turbulent. For example, his wife Cleopatra V disappeared 
in 69 b.c.e. for a decade before reemerging briefly in the early 50s b.c.e. 
as co-regent with her daughter, in a coup directed against her former hus- 
band. It was the threat from Rome, however, that dominated his reign. 
Historians have given him little credit for the skill with which he sur- 
vived and maintained the independence of Egypt for three decades by 
exploiting the suspicions of Roman politicians, who feared that allowing 
anyone to gain credit for annexing Egypt would destabilize the political 
balance of power at Rome. At the same time, he successfully rebuilt sup- 
port for dynasty among the powerful Egyptian priesthood through an ex- 
tensive program of temple construction, and transformed the nature of 
the royal cult by being the first Ptolemy to identify himself during his 
lifetime with a particular Greek god, Dionysos. By so doing, he laid a 
strong foundation for the reign of his daughter Cleopatra VII. 


From the beginning of their history, Greeks had encountered the gods 
of other peoples. They had solved the problem of whether or not these 
gods were the same as their own through the process of identification his- 
torians call syncretism. Sarapis was the most remarkable result of this 

Sarapis was the patron god of the Ptolemaic dynasty and the city god 
of Alexandria. Sarapis and his cult were deliberate creations intended to 
provide a link between Greeks, Macedonians, and Egyptians. Although 
there is evidence that Sarapis was already being worshiped in the late 
fourth century b.c.e., the decisive period for the development of the god 
was the third century b.c.e. 

Biographies: Significant Figures 91 

In his final form, Sarapis included aspects drawn from many gods, both 
Greek and Egyptian, including Pluto, ruler of the underworld; the Egypt- 
ian god Osiris; Zeus: the healing god Asklepios; Dionysos; and the sun 
god Helios. His origin was the Memphite god Osarapis (Wsir-Hapi), who 
was already worshiped by Greeks in the late fourth century b.c.e. Osara- 
pis was the deified soul of the Apis bull when it manifested itself as Osiris, 
king of the dead. At the Serapeum, his home in Memphis and the bur- 
ial place of the Apis bulls, Osarapis provided cures and oracles through 
dreams to his devotees. 

The cult of Sarapis at Memphis remained close to its roots in the cults 
of Osiris and Apis. The situation was different at Alexandria. Although 
Ptolemy I built the city's principal temple of Sarapis in the Egyptian quar- 
ter of Rhakotis, Greek influence on the cult was strong. The Ptolemaic 
government played a major role in the development of Sarapis. The most 
important contributions were made by the Athenian priest Timotheos of 
Eleusis and the Egyptian historian Manetho. They identified Sarapis and 
Pluto, an identification that was facilitated by the fact that both Pluto 
and Osiris were kings of the dead. Identifications with other gods quickly 
followed, transforming Sarapis into a universal deity. Ptolemy I also had 
the sculptor Bryaxis create a regal cult statue appropriate to this new vi- 
sion of Sarapis, and encouraged the story that Sarapis had revealed to 
him in a dream the location of his new statue. 

The cult was further elaborated by Ptolemy I's successors. Ptolemy II 
added a library to the god's temple, while Ptolemy III replaced Sarapis' 
existing temple with a new and larger temple that lasted until the fourth 
century c.e. and linked it to a new temple of Isis. Finally, Ptolemy IV 
added to the complex a temple of Harpokrates — the Greek form of the 
Egypt sky-god Horos, the divine counterpart of the king. The result was 
that Sarapis became the central figure in a Hellenized version of the an- 
cient Egyptian royal cult of Osiris, Isis, and Horos; and in Egypt, dedi- 
cations to Sarapis were commonly made on behalf of the king and his 
family. His cult also spread widely outside Egypt, but there the focus 
shifted to emphasize his role as a healing and oracular god, who offered 
the hope of salvation after death. 




Cleopatra VII 

The Reign of Cleopatra 

Historians are fortunate to have Julius Caesar's autobiographical ac- 
count of the conflict that led to Cleopatra's rise to power. Civil War tells 
the story of the conflict between Caesar and the forces of the Senate and 
Pompey from the outbreak of fighting in 50 B.C. E. to the beginning of the 
siege of Alexandria two years later. The story of the siege itself is told in 
Alexandrian War, a continuation of Civil War written by one of Cae- 
sar's officers. Neither work, however, tells how Cleopatra and Caesar 
met. Fortunately, that omission is remedied by Plutarch. Unfortunately, 
for the remainder of Cleopatra's reign, historians have to rely on the ac- 
count provided by Plutarch in his Life of Antony. Although he wrote al- 
most two centuries after Cleopatra's death, Plutarch used a variety of 
contemporary sources, including the accounts of some of Cleopatra's 
palace staff, in order to draw a vivid picture of the queen during the last 
years of her life . 

Pompey tries to escape to Egypt after the Battle of Pharsalus, but is mur- 
dered by the supporters of Ptolemy XIII. 

There [at Pelusium] by chance was King Ptolemy, a boy in years, waging 
war with large forces against his sister Kleopatra, whom a few months be- 
fore he had expelled from the throne by the help of his relations and 
friends. The camp of Kleopatra was not far distant from his camp. To him 

94 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

Pompey sent begging to be received in Alexandria and supported in his 
calamity by the king's resources, in remembrance of the hospitality and 
friendship that he had shown his father. But his messengers, having ful- 
filled the duty of their embassy, began to converse more freely with the 
king's soldiers and to exhort them to show their dutiful loyalty to Pom- 
pey, and not to despise his fortunes. In the number of these men were 
very many soldiers of Pompey, whom Gabinius had taken over from his 
army in Syria and had transported to Alexandria, and on the conclusion 
of the war had left them with Ptolemy, the youth's father. 

Then, on learning of these proceedings, the king's friends, who, on ac- 
count of his youth, were in charge of the kingdom, whether moved by 
fear, as they afterwards gave out, lest Pompey should seize on Alexandria 
and Egypt after tampering with the royal army, or because they despised 
his fortunes, according to the common rule that in misfortune friends be- 
come enemies. They gave in public a generous reply to his messengers 
and bade him visit the king, but themselves formed a secret plot, and 
sent Achillas, the king's prefect, a man of singular audacity, and L. Sep- 
timius, a military tribune, to assassinate Pompey. And he, being courte- 
ously addressed by them and being lured forth by some previous 
knowledge of Septimius, because he had been a centurion under him in 
the pirate war, embarked in a little boat with a few of his friends, and is 
thereupon assassinated by Achillas and Septimius. L. Lentulus is also ar- 
rested by the king and slain in prison. 

Julius Caesar arrives in Egypt shortly after the death of Pompey and as- 
serts his authority over the country. 

At Alexandria he learns of the death of Pompey, and there immediately 
on landing he hears the shouting of the soldiers whom the king had left 
in the town on garrison duty and sees them hurrying to meet him, be- 
cause the fasces were being carried in front of him. Hereby the whole 
multitude asserted that the royal authority was being infringed. When 
this tumult was appeased frequent disturbances took place on successive 
days from the gathering of the multitude, and many soldiers were killed 
in all parts of this town. 

Observing these events, he ordered other legions, which he had made 
up out of the Pompeian troops to be brought him from Asia. For he was 
himself compulsorily detained by the etesian winds, which blow directly 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 95 

counter to those sailing from Alexandria. Meanwhile, thinking that the 
controversies of the princes affected the Roman people and himself as 
consul, and concerned his functions all the more because in his previous 
consulship an alliance had been formed with the elder Ptolemy both by 
legislative enactment and by decree of the senate, he declares that it is 
his pleasure that King Ptolemy and his sister Kleopatra should disband 
the armies that they controlled, and should settle their disputes by 
process of law before himself rather than by armed force between them- 

On account of the king's youth his tutor, a eunuch named Pothinus, 
was in charge of the kingdom. He at first began to complain among his 
friends and express his indignation that the king should be summoned to 
plead his cause; then, finding certain persons among the king's friends to 
abet his plot, he secretly summoned the army from Pelusium to Alexan- 
dria and put the same Achillas, whom we have mentioned above, in com- 
mand of all the forces. This man, puffed up as he was by his own and the 
king's promises, he urged to action, and informed him by letter and mes- 
senger what he wished to be done. In the will of their father Ptolemy the 
elder of the two sons and the elder of the two daughters were inscribed 
as heirs. In the same will Ptolemy adjured the Roman people in the name 
of all the gods and of the treaties which he had made at Rome to carry 
out these provisions. One copy of the will had been taken to Rome by 
his envoys to be placed in the treasury, but had been deposited with Pom- 
pey because it had not been possible to place it there owing to the em- 
barrassments of the state; a second duplicate copy was left sealed for 
production at Alexandria. 

When these matters were being dealt with by Caesar, and he was par- 
ticularly desirous of settling the disputes of the princes as a common 
friend and arbitrator, word is suddenly brought that the royal army and 
all the cavalry are on their way to Alexandria. Caesar's forces were by no 
means so large that he could trust them if he had to fight outside the 
town. It remained that he should keep in his own position in the town 
and learn the intentions of Achillas. But he ordered all his men to stand 
by their arms, and exhorted the king to send to Achillas those of his 
friends whom he judged to be of chief authority and to explain what his 
intentions were. Accordingly Dioscorides and Serapion, who had both 
been envoys at Rome and had possessed great influence with his father 
Ptolemy, were commissioned by the king and came to Achillas. And 

96 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

when they had come into his presence, before hearing them or learning 
for what reason they had been sent he ordered them to be arrested and 
killed. And one of them, having received a wound, was promptly 
snatched away by his friends and carried off for dead; the other was slain. 
After this deed Caesar manages to bring the king under his own control, 
because he thinks that the king's title had great weight with his subjects, 
and in order to make it apparent that the war had been undertaken on 
the private initiative of a small clique and a set of brigands rather than 
on that of the king. 

The forces with Achillas were not such as to seem contemptible in re- 
spect of number or grade of men or experience in warfare. For he had 
twenty thousand men under arms. These consisted of soldiers of Gabinius 
who had habituated themselves to Alexandrian life and license and had 
unlearnt the name and discipline of the Roman people and married wives 
by whom very many of them had children. To them were added men col- 
lected from among the freebooters and brigands of Syria and the province 
of Cilicia and the neighboring regions; also many condemned criminals 
and exiles had joined them. All our own fugitive slaves had a sure place 
of refuge at Alexandria, and assurance of their lives on the condition of 
giving in their names and being on the army roll; and if any one of them 
was arrested by his owner he would be rescued by the common consent 
of the soldiery, who repelled violence done to their comrades as a peril to 
their own selves, since they were all alike involved in similar guilt. These 
men had been in the habit of demanding for execution the friends of the 
princes, of plundering the property of the rich, of besetting the king's 
palace to secure an increase of pay, of driving one man from the throne 
and summoning another to fill it, after an ancient custom of the Alexan- 
drian army. There were besides two thousand cavalry. All these had grown 
old in the numerous wars at Alexandria, had restored the elder Ptolemy 
to the throne, had killed the two sons of Bibulus, and had waged war with 
the Egyptians. Such was their experience in warfare. 

Ptolemaic forces led by Achillas attempt to break into the palace but are 
defeated by Caesar, who burns the Egyptian fleet and seizes control of 

On the island there is a tower called Pharos, of great height, a work of 
wonderful construction, which took its name from the island. This is- 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 97 

land, lying over against Alexandria, makes a harbor, but it is connected 
with the town by a narrow roadway like a bridge, piers nine hundred feet 
in length having been thrown out seawards by former kings. On this is- 
land there are dwelling-houses of Egyptians and a settlement the size of 
a town, and any ships that went a little out of their course there through 
carelessness or rough weather they were in the habit of plundering like 
pirates. Moreover, on account of the narrowness of the passage there can 
be no entry for ships into the harbor without the consent of those who 
are in occupation of Pharos. Caesar, now fearing such difficulty, landed 
his troops when the enemy was occupied in fighting, and seized Pharos 
and placed a garrison on it. The result of these measures was that corn 
and reinforcements could be safely conveyed to him on shipboard. For 
he sent messengers to all the neighboring provinces and summoned re- 
inforcements from them. In the remaining parts of the town the result 
of the fighting was that they separated after an indecisive engagement 
and neither side was beaten, the reason of this being the narrowness of 
the space; and a few men having been slain on both sides, Caesar drew 
a cordon round the most necessary positions and strengthened the de- 
fenses by night. In this region of the town there was a small part of the 
palace to which he had been at first conducted for his personal residence, 
and a theatre was attached to the house, which took the place of a 
citadel, and had approaches to the port and to the other docks. These 
defenses he increased on subsequent days so that they might take the 
place of a wall as a barrier against the foe, and that he might not be 
obliged to fight against his will. Meanwhile the younger daughter of King 
Ptolemy, hoping to have the vacated tenure of the throne, removed her- 
self from the palace to join Achillas and began to conduct the war with 
him. But there quickly arose a controversy between them about the lead- 
ership, an event which increased the bounties to the soldiers, for each 
strove separately to win their favor by large sacrifices. While this was 
going on among the enemy, Pothinus, the young king's tutor and con- 
troller of the kingdom, in Caesar's part of the town, while sending mes- 
sengers to Achillas and exhorting him not to slacken in the business nor 
to fail in spirit, was slain by Caesar, his messengers having been informed 
against and arrested. This was the beginning of the Alexandrian war. 

From Julius Caesar, Civil War, book 3 of The Civil Wars (London: William Heine - 
mann, 1914), pp. 102-12, 339-59. 

98 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

Caesar meets Cleopatra 

As for the war in Egypt, some say that it was not necessary, but due to 
Caesar's passion for Kleopatra, and that it was inglorious and full of peril 
for him. But others blame the king's party for it, and especially the eu- 
nuch Potheinos, who had most influence at court, and had recently killed 
Pompey; he had also driven Kleopatra from the country, and was now se- 
cretly plotting against Caesar. On this account they say that from this 
time on Caesar passed whole nights at drinking parties in order to pro- 
tect himself. But in his open acts also Potheinos was unbearable, since 
he said and did many things that were invidious and insulting to Caesar. 
For instance, when the soldiers had the oldest and worst grain measured 
out to them, he bade them put up with it and be content, since they were 
eating what belonged to others; and at the state suppers he used wooden 
and earthen dishes, on the ground that Caesar had taken all the gold and 
silver ware in payment of a debt. For the father of the present king owed 
Caesar seventeen million five hundred thousand drachmas, of which 
Caesar had formerly remitted a part to his children, but now demanded 
payment of ten millions for the support of his army. When, however, 
Potheinos bade him go away now and attend to his great affairs, assur- 
ing him that later he would get his money with thanks, Caesar replied 
that he had no need whatever of Egyptians as advisers and secretly sent 
for Kleopatra from the country. 

So Kleopatra, taking only Apollodoros the Sicilian from among her 
friends, embarked in a little skiff and landed at the palace when it was 
already getting dark; and as it was impossible to escape notice otherwise, 
she stretched herself at full length inside a bed-sack, while Apollodoros 
tied the bed-sack up with a cord and carried it indoors to Caesar. It was 
by this device of Kleopatra's, it is said, that Caesar was first captivated, 
for she showed herself to be a bold coquette, and succumbing to the 
charm of further intercourse with her, he reconciled her to her brother 
on the basis of a joint share with him in the royal power. Then, as every- 
body was feasting to celebrate the reconciliation, a slave of Caesar's, his 
barber, who left nothing unscrutinized, owing to a timidity in which he 
had no equal, but kept his ears open and was here, there, and everywhere, 
perceived that Achillas the general and Potheinos the eunuch were 
hatching a plot against Caesar. After Caesar had found them out, he set 
a guard about the banqueting-hall, and put Potheinos to death; Achillas, 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 99 

however, escaped to his camp, and raised about Caesar a war grievous 
and difficult for one who was defending himself with so few followers 
against so large a city and army. In this war, to begin with, Caesar en- 
countered the peril of being shut off from water, since the canals were 
dammed up by the enemy; in the second place, when the enemy tried to 
cut off his fleet, he was forced to repel the danger by using fire, and this 
spread from the dockyards and destroyed the great library; and thirdly, 
when a battle arose at Pharos, he sprang from the mole into a small boat 
and tried to go to the aid of his men in their struggle, but the Egyptians 
sailed up against him from every side so that he threw himself into the 
sea and with great difficulty escaped by swimming. At this time, too, it 
is said that he was holding many papers in his hand and would not let 
them go, though missiles were flying at him and he was immersed in the 
sea but held them above water with one hand and swam with the other; 
his little boat had been sunk at the outset. But finally, after the king had 
gone away to the enemy, he marched against him and conquered him in 
a battle where many fell and the king himself disappeared. Then, leav- 
ing Kleopatra on the throne of Egypt (a little later she had a son by him 
whom the Alexandrians called Kaisarion), he set out for Syria. 

From Plutarch, Life of Caesar, Plutarch's Lives, trans. Bernadotte Perrin (London: 
William Heinemann, 1919), pp. 555-60. 

The Alexandrian War 

When the Alexandrian war flared up, Caesar summoned every fleet from 
Rhodes and Syria and Cilicia; from Crete he raised archers, and cavalry 
from Malchus, king of the Nabataeans, and ordered artillery to be pro- 
cured, grain dispatched, and auxiliary troops mustered from every quar- 
ter. Meanwhile the entrenchments were daily extended by additional 
works, and all those sectors of the town which appeared to be not strong 
enough were provided with shelters and mantlets; battering-rams, more- 
over, were introduced from one building into the next through holes, and 
the entrenchments were extended to cover all the ground laid bare by 
demolitions or gained by force of arms. For Alexandria is well-nigh fire- 
proof, because buildings contain no wooden joinery and are held together 
by an arched construction and are roofed with rough-cast or tiling. Cae- 

100 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

sar was particularly anxious that, by bringing to bear his siege works and 
pent-houses, he should isolate from the rest of the city that narrowest 
part of the town which was most constricted by the barrier of marshland 
lying to the south; his object being first that, since his army was divided 
between two sectors of the city, it should be controlled by a single strat- 
egy and command; secondly, that if they got into difficulties in one sec- 
tor of the town, assistance and support could be brought from the other 
sector. But above all his object was to secure himself abundance of water 
and fodder; of which, as regards the former, he had but a scanty supply, 
and, as regards the latter, no stocks whatever; and the marshland could 
afford him bountiful supplies of both. 

Not indeed that this occasioned any hesitation or delay on the part of 
the Alexandrians in concerting their measures. They had in fact dis- 
patched emissaries and recruiting officers throughout the entire length 
and breadth of the territory and kingdom of Egypt for the purpose of hold- 
ing a levy, and had conveyed into the town a large quantity of weapons 
and artillery and mustered a countless host. In the city too, no less, vast 
arms factories had been established. They had, moreover, armed the adult 
slaves, and these the wealthier owners furnished with their daily food and 
pay. The numerous force they deployed to guard the fortifications of out- 
lying areas; while they kept their veteran cohorts unemployed in the most 
frequented quarters of the city so that, no matter in what district fight- 
ing occurred, they could be thrown in as fresh and lusty reinforcements. 
All the streets and alleys were walled off by a triple barricade, built of 
rectangular stone blocks and not less than forty feet high; while as for 
the lower quarters of the city, these were fortified with very lofty towers, 
each ten stories high. Besides these there were other towers which they 
had contrived — mobile ones of the like number of stories; and these, 
being mounted on wheels with ropes and draught animals attached, they 
moved along the level streets to any area they saw fit. 

Highly productive and abundantly supplied as it was, the city furnished 
equipment of all kinds. The people themselves were clever and very 
shrewd, and no sooner had they seen what was being done by us than 
they would reproduce it with such cunning that it seemed it was our men 
who had copied their works. Much also they invented on their own ac- 
count, and kept assailing our entrenchments while simultaneously de- 
fending their own. In their councils and public meetings the arguments 
which their leaders kept driving home were as follows: "the Roman peo- 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 101 

pie were gradually acquiring a habit of seizing that kingdom; a few years 
earlier Aulus Gabinius had been in Egypt with an army; Pompey too had 
resorted thither in his flight; Caesar had now come with his forces, and 
the death of Pompey had had no effect in dissuading Caesar from stay- 
ing on among them. If they failed to drive him out, their kingdom would 
become a Roman province: and this driving out they must do betimes; 
for cut off as he now was by storms owing to the season of the year, he 
could not receive reinforcements from overseas." 

Meanwhile a quarrel had arisen — as related above — between Achillas, 
who commanded the veteran army, and Arsinoe, the younger daughter 
of king Ptolemey; and with each party plotting against the other and anx- 
ious to obtain the supreme power for himself, Arsinoe, acting through 
the eunuch Ganymedes, her tutor, struck the first blow and killed 
Achillas. After his murder she herself exercised complete control with- 
out any consort or guardian, while the army was entrusted to Ganymedes. 
On undertaking this duty the latter increased the soldiers' bounty and 
performed the rest of his functions with consistent thoroughness. 

Practically the whole of Alexandria is undermined with subterranean 
conduits running from the Nile, by which water is conducted into pri- 
vate houses; which water in course of time gradually settles down and be- 
comes clear. This is what is normally used by the owners of mansions and 
their households; for what the Nile brings down is so muddy and turbid 
that it gives rise to many different diseases: yet the rank and file of the 
common sort are perforce content with the latter, inasmuch as there is 
not one natural spring in the whole city. The main stream in question, 
however, was in that quarter of the city, which was held by the Alexan- 
drians. This circumstance suggested to Ganymedes the possibility that 
the water supply could be cut off from our troops; who, posted as they 
were in various quarters of the town to guard our entrenchments, were 
using water drawn from conduits and cisterns in private buildings. 

Ganymedes tries to force Caesar to surrender by fouling the drinking water 
in the portions of Alexandria he controlled with salt water. Caesar defeats 
the Egyptian forces in a naval battle in Alexandria harbor. 

So shattered were the Alexandrians by this reverse — for they saw that 
now it was not the bravery of combat troops but the seamanship of sailors 
that had caused their defeat — that they scarcely trusted their ability to 

102 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

defend themselves from the buildings, from which, as well as from their 
higher positions, they derived support, and used all their timber in build- 
ing barricades, fearing as they did that our fleet would attack them even 
ashore. Nevertheless, after Ganymedes had declared in the council that 
he would not only make good the losses they had sustained but also in- 
crease the number of their ships, their hopes and confidence ran high 
and they began to repair their old ships and to devote greater care and 
more earnest attention to this matter. And though they had lost more 
than a hundred and ten warships in the harbor and docks, yet they did 
not abandon the idea of re-equipping their fleet. They saw in fact that 
neither troop reinforcements nor supplies could be conveyed to Caesar 
if they themselves had a strong fleet; apart from which, the men of the 
city and the coastal district, seamen as they were and trained as such from 
boyhood by daily practice, were anxious to resort to this their natural and 
native gift, and were aware how successful they had been with their hum- 
ble little vessels. Consequently they threw themselves whole-heartedly 
into the task of equipping a fleet. 

There were guardships posted at all the mouths of the Nile to levy cus- 
toms dues, and in secret royal dockyards there were old ships, which had 
not seen service afloat for many years. These last they proceeded to re- 
pair, while the guardships they recalled to Alexandria. There was a short- 
age of oars: the roofs of colonnades, gymnasia and public buildings were 
dismantled, and their beams made to serve as oars. In one case it was nat- 
ural ingenuity that helped to bridge the gap, in another the city's re- 
sources. In fine it was no lengthy voyaging for which they were preparing; 
but perceiving that the conflict must take place in the harbor itself they 
obeyed the dictates of the moment. In a few days, therefore, they sur- 
prised everyone by completing 22 quadriremes and 5 quinqueremes, to 
which they added a considerable number of smaller, open craft; and then, 
after trying out in the harbor by rowing what each of them could do, they 
manned them with suitable troops and prepared themselves at all points 
for the conflict. Caesar had 9 Rbodian ships (10 had been sent, but one 
had been lost during a voyage, on the coast of Egypt), 8 Pontic, 5 Lycian 
and 12 from Asia. These included 10 quinqueremes and quadriremes, 
while the rest were smaller craft and most of them un-decked. None the 
less, though informed of the enemies' forces, Caesar proceeded with his 
preparations for an action, confident in the valor of his troops. 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 103 

Caesar defeats the Egyptian forces in a second naval battle in Alexandria 

The Alexandrians saw that the Romans were heartened by successes and 
stimulated by reverses, nor were they aware of any third vicissitude of 
war which could make them yet more steadfast. And so, whether it was 
they were warned by the king's friends who were in Caesar's camp, or 
whether they were acting on some previous plan of their own made 
known to the king by secret dispatches and approved by him, — we can 
only guess at their motive — they sent envoys to Caesar requesting him 
to release the king and allow him to go over to his own side. "The whole 
population," they said, "being tired and wearied of the girl, of the dele- 
gation of the kingship, and of the utterly remorseless tyranny of 
Ganymedes, were ready to do the king's bidding; and if, at his instance, 
they were to enter into a loyal friendship with Caesar, then no danger 
would intimidate or prevent the population from submitting." 

Though Caesar was well aware that they were a deceitful race, always 
pretending something different from their real intentions, yet he decided 
that it was expedient to satisfy their plea for clemency, since, if their de- 
mands in any way reflected their feelings, then he believed the king 
would remain loyal when released; but if, on the other hand, they wanted 
to have the king to lead them with a view to waging the war — and that 
was more in keeping with their character — then he thought there would 
be greater honor and distinction for him in waging war against a king 
than against a motley collection of refugees. Accordingly, he urged the 
king to take thought for the kingdom of his fathers, to have pity on his 
most illustrious country, shamefully scarred as it was by fire and desola- 
tion, to recall his citizens to sanity first and then to preserve them 
therein, and to prove his loyalty to the Roman people and to Caesar, 
inasmuch as Caesar himself had such faith in him that he was sending 
him to join an enemy under arms. Then, grasping his right hand in his 
own, Caesar made to take leave of the boy — already grown to manhood. 
But the royal mind, schooled in all the lessons of utter deceit, was loth 
to fall short of the customary standards of his race; and so with tears he 
proceeded to beseech Caesar to the opposite effect not to send him away: 
his very kingdom, he declared, was not more pleasing to him than the 
sight of Caesar. Checking the lad's tears, albeit not unmoved himself, 
Caesar declared that, if that was the way he felt, they would speedily be 

104 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

reunited, and so sent him back to his people. Like a horse released from 
the starting-gate and given his head, the king proceeded to wage war 
against Caesar so energetically that the tears he had shed at their con- 
ference seemed to have been tears of joy. Not a few of Caesar's officers 
and friends and many of the centurions and soldiers were delighted at 
this turn of events, inasmuch as Caesar's over-generosity had, they felt, 
been made fun of by the deceitful tricks of a boy. As if indeed it was 
merely generosity and not the most far-sighted strategy, which had led 
him to do it! 

Roman reinforcements commanded by Mithridates of Pergamum enter 
Egypt. Ptolemy XIII is defeated in battles against Mithridates and Caesar 
and killed. 

It is established that the king himself fled from the camp and then, after 
being taken aboard a ship along with a large number of his men who were 
swimming to the nearest ships, perished when as a result of the numbers 
the vessel capsized. 

This signal victory, the outcome of a most speedy and successful ac- 
tion, filled Caesar with such confidence that he hastened with his cav- 
alry to Alexandria by the nearest overland route, and entered it 
triumphantly by that quarter of the town which was held by the enemy 
garrison. Nor was he mistaken in his own conclusion that, as soon as they 
heard of that battle, the enemy would cease to think any longer in terms 
of war. On his arrival he reaped the well-earned fruits of valor and mag- 
nanimity; for the entire population of townsfolk threw down their arms, 
abandoned their fortifications, assumed that garb in which suppliants are 
used to placate tyrants with earnest prayers, and brought forth all the sa- 
cred emblems by the sanctity of which they had been wont to conjure 
the embittered and wrathful hearts of their kings; even so did they has- 
ten to meet Caesar on his arrival and surrender themselves to him. Cae- 
sar took them formally under his protection and consoled them; then, 
passing through the enemy fortifications, he came to his own quarter of 
the town amid loud cheers of congratulation from his own troops, who 
rejoiced at the happy issue, not only of the war itself and the fighting, 
but also of his arrival under such circumstances. 

Having made himself master of Egypt and Alexandria, Caesar ap- 
pointed as kings those whose names Ptolemy had written down in his 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 105 

will with an earnest appeal to the Roman people that they should not be 
altered. The elder of the two boys — the late king — being now no more, 
Caesar assigned the kingdom to the younger one and to Cleopatra, the 
elder of the two daughters, who had remained his loyal adherent; whereas 
Arsinoe, the younger daughter, in whose name, as we have shown, 
Ganymedes had long been exercising an unbridled sway, he determined 
to remove from the realm, to prevent any renewed dissentions coming 
into being among factious folk before the dominion of the royal pair 
could be consolidated by the passage of time. The veteran Sixth legion 
he took away with him: all the others he left there, the more to bolster 
up the dominion of the said rulers, who could enjoy neither the affec- 
tion of their people, inasmuch as they had remained throughout staunch 
friends of Caesar, nor the authority of a long-established reign, it being 
but a few days since they came to the throne. At the same time he 
deemed it conducive to the dignity of our empire and to public expedi- 
ency that, if the rulers remained loyal, they should be protected by our 
troops: whereas if they proved ungrateful, those same troops could hold 
them in check. Having thus completed all his dispositions, he set off in 
person for Syria. 

From Julius Caesar, The Alexandrian War, in Alexandrian, African and Spanish 
Wars, trans. A. G. Way (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1955), 
pp. 11-65. 

Relations between Cleopatra and Antony from Their 
Meeting in 40 b.c.e. to Their Death in 30 b.c.e. 

At any rate, when Antony made his entry into Ephesus, women arrayed 
like Bacchanals, and men and boys like Satyrs and Pans, led the way be- 
fore him, and the city was full of ivy and thyrsus-wands and harps and 
pipes and flutes, the people hailing him as Dionysus Carnivorous and 
Savage. For he took their property from well-born men and bestowed it 
on flatterers and scoundrels. From many, too, who were actually alive, 
men got their property by asking him for it on the plea that the owners 
were dead. The house of a man of Magnesia he gave to a cook, who, as 
we are told, had won reputation by a single supper. But finally, when he 
was imposing a second contribution on the cities, Hybreas, speaking in 

106 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

behalf of Asia, plucked up courage to say this: "If thou canst take a con- 
tribution twice in one year, thou hast power also to make summer for us 
twice, and harvest-time twice." These words were rhetorical, it is true, 
and agreeable to Antony's taste; but the speaker added in plain and bold 
words that Asia had given him two hundred thousand talents; "If," said 
he, "thou hast not received this money, demand it from those who took 
it; but if thou didst receive it, and hast it not, we are undone." This 
speech made a powerful impression upon Antony; for he was ignorant of 
most that was going on, not so much because he was of an easy disposi- 
tion, as because he was simple enough to trust those about him. 

For there was simplicity in his nature, and slowness of perception, 
though when he did perceive his errors he showed keen repentance, and 
made full acknowledgement to the very men who had been unfairly dealt 
with, and there was largeness both in his restitution to the wronged and 
in his punishment of the wrong-doers. Yet he was thought to exceed due 
bounds more in conferring favors than in inflicting punishments. And 
his wantonness in mirth and jest carried its own remedy with it. For a 
man might pay back his jests and insolence, and he delighted in being 
laughed at no less than in laughing at others. And this vitiated most of 
his undertakings. For he could not believe that those who used bold 
speech in jest could flatter him in earnest, and so was easily captivated 
by their praises, not knowing that some men would mingle bold speech, 
like a piquant sauce, with flattery, and thus would take away from flat- 
tery its cloying character. Such men would use their bold babbling over 
the cups to make their submissive yielding in matters of business seem to 
be the way, not of those who associate with a man merely to please him, 
but of those who are vanquished by superior wisdom. 

Such, then, was the nature of Antony, where now as a crowning evil 
his love for Kleopatra supervened, roused and drove to frenzy many of 
the passions that were still hidden and quiescent in him, and dissipated 
and destroyed whatever good and saving qualities still offered resistance. 
And he was taken captive in this manner. As he was getting ready for 
the Parthian war, he sent to Kleopatra, ordering her to meet him in Cili- 
cia in order to make answer to the charges made against her of raising 
and giving to Cassius much money for the war. But Delius, Antony's mes- 
senger, when he saw how Kleopatra looked, and noticed her subtlety and 
cleverness in conversation, at once perceived that Antony would not so 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 107 

much as think of doing such a woman any harm, but that she would have 
the greatest influence with him. He therefore resorted to flattery and tried 
to induce the Egyptian to go to Cilicia "decked out in fine array" (as 
Homer would say), and not to be afraid of Antony, who was the most 
agreeable and humane of commanders. She was persuaded by Delius, and 
judging by the proofs which she had had before this of the effect of her 
beauty upon Caius Caesar and Gnaeus the son of Pompey, she had hopes 
that she would more easily bring Antony to her feet. For Caesar and Pom- 
pey had known her when she was still a girl and inexperienced in affairs, 
but she was going to visit Antony at the very time when women have 
the most brilliant beauty and are at the acme of intellectual power. 
Therefore she provided herself with many gifts, much money, and such 
ornaments as high position and a prosperous kingdom made it natural for 
her to take; but she went putting her greatest confidence in herself, and 
in the charms and sorceries of her own person. 

Though she received many letters of summons both from Antony him- 
self and from his friends, she so despised and laughed the man to scorn 
as to sail up the river Kydnos in a barge with gilded poop, its sails spread 
purple, its rowers urging it on with silver oars to the sound of the flute 
blended with pipes and lutes. She herself reclined beneath a canopy span- 
gled with gold, adorned like Venus in a painting, while boys like Loves 
in paintings stood on either side and fanned her. Likewise also the fairest 
of her serving-maidens, attired like Nereids and Graces, were stationed, 
some at the rudder-sweeps, and others at the reefing-ropes. Wondrous 
odors from countless incense-offerings diffused themselves along the 
river-banks. Of the inhabitants, some accompanied her on either bank 
of the river from its very mouth, while others went down from the city 
to behold the sight. The throng in the market place gradually streamed 
away, until at last Antony himself, seated on his tribunal, was left alone. 
And a rumor spread on every hand that Venus was come to revel with 
Bacchus for the good of Asia. 

Antony sent, therefore, and invited her to supper; but she thought it 
meet that he should rather come to her. At once, then, wishing to dis- 
play his complacency and friendly feelings, Antony obeyed and went. He 
found there a preparation that beggared description, but was most amazed 
at the multitude of lights. For, as we are told, so many of these were let 
down and displayed on all sides at once, and they were arranged and or- 

108 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

dered with so many inclinations and adjustments to each other in the 
form of rectangles and circles, that few sights were so beautiful or so wor- 
thy to be seen as this. 

On the following day Antony feasted her in his turn, and was ambi- 
tious to surpass her splendor and elegance, but in both regards he was left 
behind, and vanquished in these very points, and was first to rail at the 
meagerness and rusticity of his own arrangements. Kleopatra observed in 
the jests of Antony much of the soldier and the common man, and 
adopted this manner also towards him, without restraint now, and boldly. 
For her beauty, as we are told, was in itself not altogether incomparable, 
nor such as to strike those who saw her; but converse with her had an 
irresistible charm, and her presence, combined with the persuasiveness 
of her discourse and the character which was somehow diffused about her 
behavior towards others, had something stimulating about it. There was 
sweetness also in the tones of her voice; and her tongue, like an instru- 
ment of many strings, she could readily turn to whatever language she 
pleased, so that in her interviews with Barbarians she very seldom had 
need of an interpreter, but made her replies to most of them herself and 
unassisted, whether they were Ethiopians, Trogodytes, Hebrews, Arabi- 
ans, Syrians, Medes or Parthians. Nay, it is said that she knew the speech 
of many other peoples also, although the kings of Egypt before her had 
not even made an effort to learn the native language, and some actually 
gave up their Macedonian dialect. 

Accordingly, she made such booty of Antony that, while Fulvia his 
wife was carrying on war at Rome with Caesar in defense of her husband's 
interests, and while a Parthian army was hovering about Mesopotamia 
(over this country the generals of the king had appointed Labienus 
Parthian commander-in-chief, and were about to invade Syria), he suf- 
fered her to hurry him off to Alexandria. There, indulging in the sports 
and diversions of a young man of leisure, he squandered and spent upon 
pleasures that which Antiphon calls the most costly outlay, namely, time. 
For they had an association called The Inimitable Livers, and every day 
they feasted one another, making their expenditures of incredible profu- 
sion. At any rate, Philotas, the physician of Amphissa, used to tell my 
grandfather, Lamprias, that he was in Alexandria at the time, studying 
his profession, and that having got well acquainted with one of the royal 
cooks, he was easily persuaded by him (young man that he was) to take 
a view of the extravagant preparations for a royal supper. Accordingly, 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 109 

he was introduced into the kitchen, and when he saw all the other pro- 
visions in great abundance, and eight wild boars a-roasting, he expressed 
his amazement at what must be the number of guests. But the cook burst 
out laughing and said: "The guests are not many, only about twelve; but 
everything that is set before them must be at perfection, and this an in- 
stant of time reduces. For it might happen that Antony would ask for 
supper immediately, and after a little while, perhaps, would postpone it 
and call for a cup of wine, or engage in conversation with some one. 
Wherefore," he said, "not one, but many suppers are arranged; for the 
precise time is hard to hit." This tale, then, Philotas used to tell; and he 
said also that as time went on he became one of the medical attendants 
of Antony's oldest son, whom he had of Fulvia, and that he usually 
supped with him at his house in company with the rest of his comrades, 
when the young man did not sup with his father. Accordingly, on one 
occasion, as a physician was making too bold and giving much annoy- 
ance to them as they supped, Philotas stopped his mouth with some such 
sophism as the: "To the patient who is somewhat feverish cold water must 
be given; but everyone who has a fever is somewhat feverish; therefore 
to everyone who has a fever cold water should be given." The fellow was 
confounded and put to silence, whereat Antony's son was delighted and 
said with a laugh: "All this I bestow upon thee, Philotas," pointing to a 
table covered with a great many large beakers. Philotas acknowledged his 
good intentions, but was far from supposing that a boy so young had the 
power to give away so much. After a little while, however, one of the 
slaves brought the beakers to him in a sack, and bade him put his seal 
upon it. And when Philotas protested and was afraid to take them, "You 
miserable man," said the fellow, "why hesitate? Don't you know that the 
giver is the son of Antony, and that he has the right to bestow so many 
golden vessels? However, take my advice and exchange them all with us 
for money; since perchance the boy's father might miss some of the ves- 
sels, which are of ancient workmanship and highly valued for their art." 
Such details, then, my grandfather used to tell me, Philotas would re- 
count at every opportunity. 

But Kleopatra, distributing her flattery, not into the four forms of 
which Plato speaks, but into many, and ever contributing some fresh de- 
light and charm to Antony's hours of seriousness or mirth, kept him in 
constant tutelage, and released him neither night nor day. She played at 
dice with him, drank with him, hunted with him, and watched him as 

110 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

he exercised himself in arms; and when by night he would station him- 
self at the doors or windows of the common folk and scoff at those within, 
she would go with him on his round of mad follies, wearing the garb of 
a serving maiden. For Antony also would try to array himself like a ser- 
vant. Therefore he always reaped a harvest of abuse, and often of blows, 
before coming back home; though most people suspected who he was. 
However, the Alexandrians took delight in their graceful and cultivated 
way; they liked him, and said that he used the tragic mask with the Ro- 
mans, but the comic mask with them. 

Now, to recount the greater part of his boyish pranks would be great 
nonsense. One instance will suffice. He was fishing once, and had bad 
luck, and was vexed at it because Kleopatra was there to see. He there- 
fore ordered his fishermen to dive down and secretly fasten to his hook 
some fish that had been previously caught, and pulled up two or three of 
them. But the Egyptian saw through the trick, and pretending to admire 
her lover's skill, told her friends about it, and invited them to be specta- 
tors of it the following day. So great numbers of them got into the fish- 
ing boats, and when Antony had let down his line, she ordered one of 
her own attendants to get the start of him by swimming onto his hook 
and fastening on it a salted Pontic herring. Antony thought he had 
caught something, and pulled it up, whereupon there was great laughter, 
as was natural, and Kleopatra said: "Imperator, hand over thy fishing-rod 
to the fishermen of Pharos and Canopus; thy sport is the hunting of cities, 
realms, and continents." 

Antony goes to Italy in 40 B.C.E. Confrontation between him and Octavian 
is avoided. The Second Triumvirate is reorganized to the advantage of Oc- 
tavian. Peace between him and Antony is sealed by the marriage of Antony 
and his sister Octavia. 

On the voyage, however, he picked up his (sc. Antony's) friends who were 
in flight from Italy, and learned from them that Fulvia had been to blame 
for the war, being naturally a meddlesome and headstrong woman, and 
hoping to draw Antony away from Kleopatra in case there should be a 
disturbance in Italy. It happened, too, that Fulvia, who was sailing to meet 
him, fell sick and died at Sicyon. Therefore there was even more oppor- 
tunity for a reconciliation with Caesar (sc: Octavian). For when Antony 
reached Italy, and Caesar manifestly intended to make no charges against 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 111 

him, and Antony himself was ready to put upon Fulvia the blame for what- 
ever was charged against himself, the friends of the two men would not 
permit any examination of the proffered excuse, but reconciled them, and 
divided up the empire, making the Ionian sea a boundary, and assigning 
the East to Antony, and the West to Caesar; they also permitted Lepidus 
to have Africa, and arranged that, when they did not wish for the office 
themselves, the friends of each should have the consulship by turns. 

These arrangements were thought to be fair, but they needed a stronger 
security, and this security Fortune offered. Octavia was a sister of Caesar, 
older than he, though not by the same mother; for she was the child of 
Ancharia, but he, by a later marriage, of Atia. Caesar was exceedingly 
fond of his sister, who was, as the saying is, a wonder of a woman. Her 
husband, Caius Marcellus, had died a short time before, and she was a 
widow. Antony, too, now that Fulvia was gone, was held to be a widower, 
although he did not deny his relations with Kleopatra; he would not 
admit, however, that she was his wife, and in this matter his reason was 
still battling with his love for the Egyptian. Everybody tried to bring 
about this marriage. For they hoped that Octavia, who, besides her great 
beauty, had intelligence and dignity, when united to Antony and beloved 
by him, as such a woman naturally must be, would restore harmony and 
be their complete salvation. Accordingly, when both men were agreed, 
they went up to Rome and celebrated Octavia's marriage, although the 
law did not permit a woman to marry before her husband had been dead 
ten months. In this case, however, the senate passed a decree remitting 
the restriction in time. 

Antony's generals defeat Parthian raids while Antony remains in Italy with 
Octavia, who bears him two daughters. Preparations are made for his great 
Parthian campaign. 

But the dire evil which had been slumbering for a long time, namely, his 
passion for Kleopatra, which men thought had been charmed away and 
lulled to rest by better considerations, blazed up again with renewed 
power as he drew near to Syria. And finally, like the stubborn and un- 
manageable beast of the soul, of which Plato speaks, he spurned away all 
saving and noble counsels and sent Fonteius Capito to bring Cleopatra 
to Syria. And when she was come, he made her a present of no slight or 
insignificant addition to her dominions, namely, Phoenicia, Coele Syria, 

112 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

Cyprus, and a large part of Cilicia; and still further, the balsam-producing 
part of Judaea, and all that part of Arabia Nabataea which slopes toward 
the outer sea. These gifts particularly annoyed the Romans. And yet he 
made presents to many private persons of tetrarchies and realms of great 
peoples, and he deprived many monarchs of their kingdoms, as, for in- 
stance, Antigonus the Jew, whom he brought forth and beheaded, though 
no other king before him had been so punished. But the shamefulness of 
the honors conferred upon Kleopatra gave most offence. And he height- 
ened the scandal by acknowledging his two children by her, and called 
one Alexander and the other Kleopatra, with the surname for the first of 
Sun, and for the other of Moon. However, since he was an adept at put- 
ting a good face upon shameful deeds, he used to say that the greatness 
of the Roman empire was made manifest, not by what the Romans re- 
ceived, but by what they bestowed; and that noble families were extended 
by the successive begettings of many kings. In this way, at any rate, he 
said, his own progenitor was begotten by Herakles, who did not confine 
his succession to a single womb, nor stand in awe of laws like Solon's for 
the regulation of conception, but gave free course to nature, and left be- 
hind him the beginnings and foundations of many families. 

And now Phraates put Hyrodes his father to death and took posses- 
sion of his kingdom, other Parthians ran away in great numbers, and par- 
ticularly Monaeses, a man of distinction and power, who came in flight 
to Antony. Antony likened the fortunes of the fugitive to those of 
Themistokles, compared his own abundant resources and magnanimity 
to those of the Persian kings, and gave him three cities, Larissa, Arethusa, 
and Hierapolis, which used to be called Bambyce. But when the Parthian 
king made an offer of friendship to Monaeses, Antony gladly sent Mon- 
aeses back to him, determined to deceive Phraates with a prospect of 
peace, and demanding back the standards captured in the campaign of 
Crassus, together with such of his men as still survived. Antony himself, 
however, after sending Kleopatra back to Egypt, proceeded through Ara- 
bia and Armenia to the place where his forces were assembled, together 
with those of the allied kings. 

These kings were very many in number, but the greatest of them all 
was Artavasdes, king of Armenia, who furnished six thousand horse and 
seven thousand foot. Here Antony reviewed his army. There were, of the 
Romans themselves, sixty thousand foot-soldiers, together with the cav- 
alry classed as Roman, namely, ten thousand Iberians and Celts; of the 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 113 

other nations there were thirty thousand, counting alike horsemen and 
light-armed troops. 

And yet we are told that all this preparation and power, which terri- 
fied even the Indians beyond Bactria and made all Asia quiver, was made 
of no avail to Antony by reason of Kleopatra. For so eager was he to 
spend the winter with her that he began the war before the proper time, 
and managed everything confusedly. He was not master of his own fac- 
ulties, but, as if he were under the influence of certain drugs or of magic 
rites, was ever looking eagerly towards her, and thinking more of his 
speedy return than of conquering the enemy. 

Antony campaigns unsuccessfully against the Parthians. After returning to 
Egypt, he makes plans for a new Armenian campaign. 

But afterwards, when he once more invaded Armenia, and by many in- 
vitations and promises induced Artavasdes to come to him, Antony 
seized him, and took him in chains down to Alexandria, where he cele- 
brated a triumph. And herein particularly did he give offence to the Ro- 
mans, since he bestowed the honorable and solemn rites of his native 
country upon the Egyptians for Kleopatra's sake. This, however, took 
place at a later time. 

But now, hastening on through much wintry weather, which was al- 
ready at hand, and incessant snow-storms, he lost eight thousand men 
on the march. He himself, however, went down with a small company 
to the sea, and in a little place between Berytus and Sidon, called White 
Village, he waited for Kleopatra to come; and since she was slow in com- 
ing he was beside himself with distress, promptly resorting to drinking 
and intoxication, although he could not hold out long at table, but in 
the midst of the drinking would often rise or spring up to look out, until 
she put into port, bringing an abundance of clothing and money for the 
soldiers. There are some, however, who say that he received the cloth- 
ing from Kleopatra, but took the money from his own private funds, and 
distributed it as a gift from her. 

But at Rome Octavia was desirous of sailing to Antony, and Caesar 
gave her permission to do so, as the majority say, not as a favour to her, 
but in order that, in case she were neglected and treated with scorn, he 
might have plausible ground for war. When Octavia arrived at Athens, 
she received letters from Antony in which he bade her remain there and 

114 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

told her of his expedition. Octavia, although she saw through the pre- 
text and was distressed, nevertheless wrote Antony asking whither he 
would have the things sent which she was bringing to him. For she was 
bringing a great quantity of clothing for his soldiers, many beasts of bur- 
den, and money and gifts for the officers and friends about him; and be- 
sides this, two thousand picked soldiers equipped as praetorian cohorts 
with splendid armor. These things were announced to Antony by a cer- 
tain Niger, a friend of his who had been sent from Octavia, and he added 
such praises of her as was fitting and deserved. 

But Kleopatra perceived that Octavia was coming into a contest at 
close quarters with her, and feared lest, if she added to the dignity of her 
character and the power of Caesar her pleasurable society and her assid- 
uous attentions to Antony, she would become invincible and get com- 
plete control over her husband. She therefore pretended to be 
passionately in love with Antony herself, and reduced her body by slen- 
der diet; she put on a look of rapture when Antony drew near, and one 
of faintness and melancholy when he went away. She would contrive to 
be often seen in tears, and then would quickly wipe the tears away and 
try to hide them, as if she would not have Antony notice them. And she 
practiced these arts while Antony was intending to go up from Syria to 
join the Mede. Her flatterers, too, were industrious in her behalf, and 
used to revile Antony as hard-hearted and unfeeling, and as the destroyer 
of a mistress who was devoted to him and him alone. For Octavia, they 
said, had married him as a matter of public policy and for the sake of her 
brother, and enjoyed the name of wedded wife; but Kleopatra, who was 
queen of so many people, was called Antony's beloved, and she did not 
shun this name nor disdain it, as long as she could see him and live with 
him; but if she were driven away from him she would not survive it. At 
last, then, they so melted and enervated the man that he became fearful 
lest Kleopatra should throw away her life, and went back to Alexandria, 
putting off the Mede until the summer season, although Parthia was said 
to be suffering from internal dissensions. However, he went up and 
brought the king once more into friendly relations, and after betrothing 
to one of his sons by Kleopatra one of the king's daughters who was still 
small, he returned, his thoughts being now directed towards the civil war. 

As for Octavia, she was thought to have been treated with scorn, and 
when she came back from Athens Caesar ordered her to dwell in her own 
house. But she refused to leave the house of her husband, nay, she even 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 115 

entreated Caesar himself, unless on other grounds he had determined to 
make war upon Antony, to ignore Antony's treatment of her, since it was 
an infamous thing even to have it said that the two greatest imperators 
in the world plunged the Romans into civil war, the one out of passion 
for, and the other out of resentment in behalf of, a woman. . . . Without 
meaning it, however, she was damaging Antony by this conduct of hers; 
for he was hated for wronging such a woman. He was hated, too, for the 
distribution, which he made to his children in Alexandria; it was seen 
to be theatrical and arrogant, and to evince hatred of Rome. For after 
filling the gymnasium with a throng and placing on a tribunal of silver 
two thrones of gold, one for himself and the other for Kleopatra, and 
other lower thrones for his sons, in the first place he declared Kleopatra 
Queen of Egypt, Cyprus, Libya, and Coele Syria, and she was to share 
her throne with Caesarion. Caesarion was believed to be a son of the for- 
mer Caesar, by whom Kleopatra was left pregnant. In the second place, 
he proclaimed his own sons by Kleopatra Kings of Kings, and to Alexan- 
der he allotted Armenia, Media and Parthia (when he should have sub- 
dued it), to Ptolemy Phoenicia, Syria, and Cilicia. At the same time he 
also produced his sons, Alexander arrayed in Median garb, which in- 
cluded a tiara and upright head-dress, Ptolemy in boots, short cloak, and 
broad-brimmed hat surmounted by a diadem. For the latter was the dress 
of the kings who followed Alexander, the former that of Medes and Ar- 
menians. And when the boys had embraced their parents, one was given 
a bodyguard of Armenians, the other of Macedonians. Kleopatra, indeed, 
both then and at other times when she appeared in public, assumed a 
robe sacred to Isis, and was addressed as the New Isis. 

By reporting these things to the senate and by frequent denunciations 
before the people Caesar tried to inflame the multitude against Antony. 
Antony, too, kept sending counter-accusations against Caesar. The chief 
accusations which he made were, in the first place, that after taking Sicily 
away from Pompey, Caesar had not assigned a part of the island to him; 
in the second place, that after borrowing ships from him for the war he 
had kept them for himself; thirdly, that after ejecting his colleague Lep- 
idus from office and degrading him, he was keeping for himself the army, 
the territory, and the revenues which had been assigned to Lepidus; fi- 
nally that he had distributed almost all Italy in allotments, to his own 
soldiers, and had left nothing for the soldiers of Antony. To these charges 
Caesar replied by saying that he had deposed Lepidus from office because 

116 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

he was abusing it, and as for what he had acquired in war, he would share 
it with Antony whenever Antony, on his part, should share Armenia 
with him; and Antony's soldiers had no claim upon Italy, since they had 
Media and Persia, which countries they had added to the Roman do- 
minion by their noble struggles under their imperator. 

Antony heard of this while he was tarrying in Armenia; and at once 
he ordered Canidius to take sixteen legions and go down to the sea. But 
he himself took Kleopatra with him and came to Ephesus. It was there 
that his naval force was coming together from all quarters, eight hundred 
ships of war with merchant vessels, of which Kleopatra furnished two 
hundred, besides twenty thousand talents, and supplies for the whole 
army during the war. But Antony, listening to the advice of Domitius and 
sundry others, ordered Kleopatra to sail to Egypt and there await the re- 
sult of the war. Kleopatra, however, fearing that Octavia would again suc- 
ceed in putting a stop to the war, persuaded Canidius by large bribes to 
plead her cause with Antony, and to say that it was neither just to drive 
away from the war a woman whose contributions to it were so large, nor 
was it for the interest of Antony to dispirit the Egyptians, who formed a 
large part of his naval force; and besides, it was not easy to see how 
Kleopatra was inferior in intelligence to anyone of the princes who took 
part in the expedition, she who for a long time had governed so large a 
kingdom by herself, and by long association with Antony had learned to 
manage large affairs. These arguments (since it was destined that every- 
thing should come into Caesar's hands) prevailed; and with united forces 
they sailed to Samos and there made merry. . . . 

When these festivities were over, Antony gave the dramatic artists 
Priene as a place for them to dwell, and sailed himself to Athens, where 
sports and theatres again engaged him. Kleopatra, too, jealous of Oc- 
tavia's honors in the city (for Octavia was especially beloved by the 
Athenians), tried by many splendid gifts to win the favor of the people. 
So the people voted honors to her, and sent a deputation to her house 
carrying the vote, of whom Antony was one, for was he not a citizen of 
Athens? And standing in her presence he delivered a speech in behalf of 
the city. To Rome, however, he sent men who had orders to eject Oc- 
tavia from his house. And we are told that she left it taking all his chil- 
dren with her except his eldest son by Fulvia, who was with his father; 
she was in tears of distress that she herself also would be regarded as one 
of the causes of the war. But the Romans felt pity for Antony, not for 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 117 

her, and especially those who had seen Kleopatra and knew that neither 
in youthfulness nor beauty was she superior to Octavia. 

Antony and Kleopatra make preparations for war against Octavian. Antony 
divorces Octavia and orders her to leave his house in Rome. 

When Caesar heard of the rapidity and extent of Antony's preparations, 
he was much disturbed, lest he should be forced to settle the issue of the 
war during that summer. For he was lacking in many things, and people 
were vexed by the exactions of taxes. . . . Titius and Plancus, friends of 
Antony and men of consular rank, being abused by Kleopatra (for they 
had been most opposed to her accompanying the expedition) ran away 
to Caesar, and they gave him information about Antony's will, the con- 
tents of which they knew. This will was on deposit with the Vestal Vir- 
gins, and when Caesar asked for it, they would not give it to him; but if 
he wanted to take it, they told him to come and do so. So he went and 
took it; and to begin with, he read its contents through by himself; and 
marked certain reprehensible passages; then he assembled the senate 
and read it aloud to them, although most of them were displeased to hear 
him do so. For they thought it a strange and grievous matter that a man 
should be called to account while alive for what he wished to have done 
after his death. Caesar laid most stress on the clause in the will relating 
to Antony's burial. For it directed that Antony's body, even if he should 
die in Rome, should be borne in state through the forum and then sent 
away to Kleopatra in Egypt. Again, Calvisius, who was a companion of 
Caesar, brought forward against Antony the following charges also re- 
garding his behavior towards Kleopatra: he had bestowed upon her the 
libraries from Pergamum, in which there were two hundred thousand vol- 
umes; at a banquet where there were many guests he had stood up and 
rubbed her feet, in compliance with some agreement and compact which 
they had made; he had consented to have the Ephesians in his presence 
salute Kleopatra as mistress; many times, while he was seated on his tri- 
bunal and dispensing justice to tetrarchs and kings, he would receive 
love-billets from her in tablets of onyx or crystal, and read them; and 
once when Furnius was speaking, a man of great worth and the ablest or- 
ator in Rome, Kleopatra was carried through the forum on a litter, and 
Antony, when he saw her, sprang up from his tribunal and forsook the 
trial, and hanging on to Kleopatra's litter escorted her on her way. 

118 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

However, most of the charges thus brought by Calvisius were thought 
to be falsehoods; but the friends of Antony went about in Rome be- 
seeching the people in his behalf, and they sent one of their number, 
Geminius, with entreaties that Antony would not suffer himself to be 
voted out of his office and proclaimed an enemy of Rome. But Gemi- 
nius, after his voyage to Greece, was an object of suspicion to Kleopa- 
tra, who thought that he was acting in the interests of Octavia; he was 
always put upon with jokes at supper and insulted with places of no 
honor at table, but he endured all this and waited for an opportunity to 
confer with Antony. Once, however, at a supper, being bidden to tell the 
reasons for his coming, he replied that the rest of his communication re- 
quired a sober head, but one thing he knew, whether he was drunk or 
sober, and that was all would be well if Kleopatra was sent off to Egypt. 
At this, Antony was wroth, and Kleopatra said: "You has done well, 
Geminius, to confess the truth without being put to the torture." Gem- 
inius, accordingly, after a few days, ran away to Rome. And Kleopatra's 
flatterers drove away many of the other friends of Antony also who could 
not endure their drunken tricks and scurrilities. Among these were Mar- 
cus Silanus and Delius the historian. And Delius says that he was also 
afraid of a plot against him by Kleopatra, of which Glaucus the physi- 
cian had told him. For he had offended Kleopatra at supper by saying 
that while sour wine was served to them, Sarmentus, at Rome, was drink- 
ing Falernian. Now, Sarmentus was one of the youthful favorites of Cae- 
sar, such as the Romans call deliciae. 

When Caesar had made sufficient preparations, a vote was passed to 
wage war against Kleopatra, and to take away from Antony the author- 
ity, which he had surrendered to a woman. And Caesar said in addition 
that Antony had been drugged and was not even master of himself, and 
that the Romans were carrying on war with Mardion the eunuch, and 
Potheinus, and Iras, and the tire-woman of Kleopatra, and Charmion, by 
whom the principal affairs of the government were managed. 

Civil war breaks out between Antony and Octavian. 

When the forces came together for the war, Antony had no fewer than 
five hundred fighting ships, among which were many vessels of eight and 
ten banks of oars, arrayed in pompous and festal fashion; he also had one 
hundred thousand infantry soldiers and twelve thousand horsemen. Of 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 119 

subject kings who fought with him, there were Bocchus the king of Libya, 
Tarcondemus the king of Upper Cilicia, Archelaiis of Cappadocia, 
Philadelphus of Paphlagonia, Mithridates of Commagene, and Sadalas of 
Thrace. These were with him, while from Pontus Polemon sent an army, 
and Malchus from Arabia, and Herod the Jew, besides Amyntas the king 
of Lycaonia and Galatia; the king of the Medes also sent an auxiliary 
force. Caesar had two hundred and fifty ships of war, eighty thousand in- 
fantry, and about as many horsemen as his enemies. Antony's authority 
extended over the country from the Euphrates and Armenia to the Ion- 
ian sea and Illyria; Caesar's over the country reaching from Illyria to the 
Western Ocean and from the ocean back to the Tuscan and Sicilian seas. 
Of Libya, the part extending opposite to Italy, Gaul, and Iberia as far as 
the pillars of Hercules, belonged to Caesar; the part extending from 
Cyrene as far as Armenia, to Antony. 

But to such an extent, now, was Antony an appendage of the woman 
that although he was far superior on land, he wished the decision to rest 
with his navy, to please Kleopatra, and that too when he saw that for 
lack of crews his trierarchs were haling together out of long-suffering 
Greece wayfarers, mule-drivers, harvesters, and ephebi, and that even then 
their ships were not fully manned, but most of them were deficient and 
sailed wretchedly. Caesar's fleet, on the other hand, was perfectly 
equipped, and consisted of ships which had not been built for a display 
of height or mass, but were easily steered, swift, and fully manned. 

Both sides make preparations for the decisive naval battle at Actium. 

However, Kleopatra prevailed with her opinion that the war should be 
decided by the ships, although she was already contemplating flight, and 
was disposing her own forces, not where they would be helpful in win- 
ning the victory, but where they could most easily get away if the cause 
was lost. Moreover, there were two long walls extending down to the 
naval station from the camp, and between these Antony was wont to 
pass without suspecting any danger. But a slave told Caesar that it was 
possible to seize Antony as he went down between the walls, and Cae- 
sar sent men to lie in ambush for him. These men came near accom- 
plishing their purpose, but seized only the man who was advancing in 
front of Antony, since they sprang up too soon; Antony himself escaped 
with difficulty by running. 

120 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

When it had been decided to deliver a sea battle, Antony burned all 
the Egyptian ships except sixty; but the largest and best, from those hav- 
ing three to those having ten banks of oars, he manned, putting on board 
twenty thousand heavy-armed soldiers and two thousand archers. 

The Battle of Actium 

And now, as Agrippa was extending the left wing with a view to encir- 
cling the enemy, Publicola was forced to advance against him, and so was 
separated from the center. The center falling into confusion and engag- 
ing with Arruntius, although the sea-fight was still undecided and equally 
favourable to both sides, suddenly the sixty ships of Kleopatra were seen 
hoisting their sails for flight and making off through the midst of the com- 
batants; for they had been posted in the rear of the large vessels, and 
threw them into confusion as they plunged through. The enemy looked 
on with amazement, seeing that they took advantage of the wind and 
made for Peloponnesus. Here, indeed, Antony made it clear to all the 
world that he was swayed neither by the sentiments of a commander nor 
of a brave man, nor even by his own, but, as someone in pleasantry said 
that the soul of the lover dwells in another's body, he was dragged along 
by the woman as if he had become incorporate with her and must go 
where she did. For no sooner did he see her ship sailing off than he for- 
got everything else, betrayed and ran away from those who were fighting 
and dying in his cause, got into a five-oared galley, where Alexas the Syr- 
ian and Scellius were his only companions, and hastened after the woman 
who had already ruined him and would make his ruin still more complete. 
Kleopatra recognized him and raised a signal on her ship; so Antony 
came up and was taken on board, but he neither saw nor was seen by her. 
Instead, he went forward alone to the prow and sat down by himself in 
silence, holding his head in both hands. At this point, Liburnian ships 
were seen pursuing them from Caesar's fleet; but Antony ordered the 
ship's prow turned to face them, and so kept them off, except the ship of 
Eurykles the Laconian, who attacked vigorously, and brandished a spear 
on the deck as though he would cast it at Antony. And when Antony, 
standing at the prow, asked, "Who is this that pursues Antony?" the an- 
swer was, "I am Eurykles the son of Lachares, whom the fortune of Cae- 
sar enables to avenge the death of his father." Now, Lachares had been 
beheaded by Antony because he was involved in a charge of robbery. 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 121 

However, Eurykles did not hit Antony's ship, but smote the other admi- 
ral's ship (for there were two of them) with his bronze beak and whirled 
her round, and one of the other ships also, which contained costly equip- 
ment for household use. When Eurykles was gone, Antony threw him- 
self down again in the same posture and did not stir. He spent three days 
by himself at the prow, either because he was angry with Kleopatra, or 
ashamed to see her, and then put in at Taenarum. Here the women in 
Kleopatra's company at first brought them into a parley, and then per- 
suaded them to eat and sleep together. 

The rest of Antony's fleet and his land forces surrender to Octavian, who 
delays following Antony and Kleopatra to Egypt in order to settle affairs in 

After Antony had reached the coast of Libya and sent Kleopatra forward 
into Egypt from Paraetonium, he had the benefit of solitude without end, 
roaming and wandering about with two friends, one a Greek, Aristocrates 
a rhetorician, and the other a Roman, Lucilius, about whom I have told 
a story elsewhere. He was at Philippi, and in order that Brutus might 
make his escape, pretended to be Brutus and surrendered himself to his 
pursuers. His life was spared by Antony on this account, and he remained 
faithful to him and steadfast up to the last crucial times. When the gen- 
eral to whom his forces in Libya had been entrusted brought about their 
defection, Antony tried to kill himself, but was prevented by his friends 
and brought to Alexandria. Here he found Kleopatra venturing upon a 
hazardous and great undertaking. The isthmus, namely, which separates 
the Red Sea from the Mediterranean Sea off Egypt and is considered to 
be the boundary between Asia and Libya, in the part where it is most 
constricted by the two seas and has the least width, measures three hun- 
dred furlongs. Here Kleopatra undertook to raise her fleet out of water 
and drag the ships across, and after launching them in the Arabian Gulf 
with much money and a large force, to settle in parts outside of Egypt, 
thus escaping war and servitude. But since the Arabians about Petra 
burned the first ships that were drawn up, and Antony still thought that 
his land forces at Actium were holding together, she desisted, and 
guarded the approaches to the country. And now Antony forsook the city 
and the society of his friends, and built for himself a dwelling in the sea 
at Pharos, by throwing a mole out into the water. Here he lived an exile 

122 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

from men, and declared that he was contentedly imitating the life of 
Timon, since, indeed, his experiences had been like Timon's; for he him- 
self also had been wronged and treated with ingratitude by his friends, 
and therefore hated and distrusted all mankind. 

As for Antony, Canidius in person brought him word of the loss of his 
forces at Actium, and he heard that Herod the Jew, with sundry legions 
and cohorts, had gone over to Caesar, and that the other dynasts in like 
manner were deserting him and nothing longer remained of his power 
outside of Egypt. However, none of these things greatly disturbed him, 
but, as if he gladly laid aside his hopes, that so he might lay aside his 
anxieties also, he forsook that dwelling of his in the sea, which he called 
Timoneum, and after he had been received into the palace by Kleopatra, 
turned the city to the enjoyment of suppers and drinking-bouts and dis- 
tributions of gifts, inscribing in the list of ephebi the son of Kleopatra and 
Caesar, and bestowing upon Antyllus the son of Fulvia the toga virilis 
without purple hem, in celebration of which, for many days, banquets 
and revels and feastings occupied Alexandria. Kleopatra and Antony now 
dissolved their famous society of Inimitable Livers, and founded another, 
not at all inferior to that in daintiness and extravagant outlay, which they 
called the society of Partners in Death. For their friends enrolled them- 
selves as those who would die together, and passed the time delightfully 
in a round of suppers. Moreover, Kleopatra was getting together collec- 
tions of all sorts of deadly poisons, and she tested the painless working 
of each of them by giving them to prisoners under sentence of death. But 
when she saw that the speedy poisons enhanced the sharpness of death 
by the pain they caused, while the milder poisons were not quick, she 
made trial of venomous animals, watching with her own eyes as they were 
set upon another. 

She did this daily, tried them almost all; and she found that the bite 
of the asp alone induced a sleepy torpor and sinking, where there was no 
spasm or groan, but a gentle perspiration on the face, while the percep- 
tive faculties were easily relaxed and dimmed, and resisted all attempts 
to rouse and restore them, as is the case with those who are soundly 

At the same time they also sent an embassy to Caesar in Asia, Kleopa- 
tra asking the realm of Egypt for her children, and Antony requesting 
that he might live as a private person at Athens, if he could not do so 
in Egypt. But owing to their lack of friends and the distrust which they 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 123 

felt on account of desertions, Euphronius, the teacher of the children, 
was sent on the embassy. For Alexas the Laodicean, who had been made 
known to Antony in Rome through Timagenes and had more influence 
with him than any other Greek, who had also been Kleopatra's most ef- 
fective instrument against Antony and had overthrown the considera- 
tions arising in his mind in favor of Octavia, had been sent to keep Herod 
the king from apostasy; but after remaining there and betraying Antony 
he had the audacity to come into Caesar's presence, relying on Herod. 
Herod, however, could not help him, but the traitor was at once con- 
fined and carried in fetters to his own country, where he was put to death 
by Caesar's orders. Such was the penalty for his treachery, which Alexas 
paid to Antony while Antony was yet alive. Caesar would not listen to 
the proposals for Antony, but he sent back word to Kleopatra that she 
would receive all reasonable treatment if she either put Antony to death 
or cast him out. He also sent with the messengers one of his own freed- 
men, Thyrsus, a man of no mean parts, and one who would persuasively 
convey messages from a young general to a woman who was haughty and 
astonishingly proud in the matter of beauty. This man had longer inter- 
views with Kleopatra than the rest, and was conspicuously honored by 
her, so that he roused suspicion in Antony, who seized him and gave him 
a flogging, and then sent him back to Caesar with a written message stat- 
ing that Thyrsus, by his insolent and haughty airs, had irritated him, at 
a time when misfortunes made him easily irritated. "But if thou dost not 
like the thing," he said, "thou have my freedman Hipparchos; hang him 
up and give him a flogging, and we shall be quits." After this, Kleopatra 
tried to dissipate his causes of complaint and his suspicions by paying ex- 
travagant court to him; her own birthday she kept modestly and in a 
manner becoming to her circumstances, but she celebrated his with an 
excess of all kinds of splendor and costliness, so that many of those who 
were bidden to the supper came poor and went away rich. Meanwhile 
Caesar was being called home by Agrippa, who frequently wrote him 
from Rome that matters there greatly needed his presence. 

Accordingly, the war was suspended for the time being; but when the 
winter was over, Caesar again marched against his enemy through Syria, 
and his generals through Libya. When Pelusium was taken there was a 
rumour that Seleukos had given it up, and not without the consent of 
Kleopatra; but Kleopatra allowed Antony to put to death the wife and 
children of Seleukos, and she herself, now that she had a tomb and mon- 

124 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

ument built surpassingly lofty and beautiful, which she had erected near 
the temple of Isis, collected there the most valuable of the royal treas- 
ures, gold, silver, emeralds, pearls, ebony, ivory, and cinnamon; and be- 
sides all this she put there great quantities of torch-wood and tow, so that 
Caesar was anxious about the reason, and fearing lest the woman might 
become desperate and burn up and destroy this wealth, kept sending on 
to her vague hopes of kindly treatment from him, at the same time that 
he advanced with his army against the city. But when Caesar had taken 
up position near the hippodrome, Antony sallied forth against him and 
fought brilliantly and routed his cavalry, and pursued them as far as their 
camp. Then, exalted by his victory, he went into the palace, kissed 
Kleopatra, all armed as he was, and presented to her the one of his sol- 
diers who had fought most spiritedly. Kleopatra gave the man as a reward 
of valor a golden breastplate and a helmet. The man took them, of course, 
and in the night deserted to Caesar. 

And now Antony once more sent Caesar a challenge to single com- 
bat. But Caesar answered that Antony had many ways of dying. Then 
Antony, conscious that there was no better death for him than that by 
battle, determined to attack by land and sea at once. And at supper, we 
are told, he bade the slaves pour out for him and feast him more gener- 
ously; for it was uncertain, he said, whether they would be doing this on 
the morrow, or whether they would be serving other masters, while he 
himself would be lying dead, a mummy and a nothing. Then, seeing that 
his friends were weeping at these words, he declared that he would not 
lead them out to battle, since from it he sought an honorable death for 
himself rather than safety and victory. 

During this night, it is said, about the middle of it, while the city was 
quiet and depressed through fear and expectation of what was coming, 
suddenly certain harmonious sounds from all sorts of instruments were 
heard, and the shouting of a throng, accompanied by cries of Bacchic 
revelry and satyric leapings, as if a troop of revelers, making a great tu- 
mult, were going forth from the city; and their course seemed to lie about 
through the middle of the city toward the outer gate which faced the 
enemy, at which point the tumult became loudest and then dashed out. 
Those who sought the meaning of the sign were of the opinion that the 
god to whom Antony always most likened and attached himself was now 
deserting him. 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 12,5 

At daybreak, Antony in person posted his infantry on the hills in front 
of the city, and watched his ships as they put out and attacked those of 
the enemy; and as he expected to see something great accomplished by 
them, he remained quiet. But the crews of his ships, as soon as they were 
near, saluted Caesar's crews with their oars, and on their returning the 
salute changed sides, and so all the ships, now united into one fleet, sailed 
up towards the city prows on. No sooner had Antony seen this than he 
was deserted by his cavalry, which went over to the enemy, and after 
being defeated with his infantry he retired into the city, crying out that 
he had been betrayed by Kleopatra to those with whom he waged war 
for her sake. But she, fearing his anger and his madness, fled for refuge 
into her tomb and let fall the drop-doors, which were made strong with 
bolts and bars; then she sent messengers to tell Antony that she was dead. 
Antony believed that message, and saying to himself, "Why doest thou 
longer delay, Antony? Fortune has taken away thy sole remaining excuse 
for clinging to life," he went into his chamber. Here, as he unfastened 
his breastplate and laid it aside, he said: "O Kleopatra, I am not grieved 
to be bereft of thee, for I shall straightway join thee; but I am grieved 
that such an imperator as I am has been found to be inferior to a woman 
in courage." 

Now, Antony had a trusty slave named Eros. Him Antony had long 
before engaged, in case of need, to kill him, and now demanded the ful- 
fillment of his promise. So Eros drew his sword and held it up as though 
he would smite his master, but then turned his face away and slew him- 
self. And as he fell at his master's feet Antony said: "Well done, Eros! 
though you wast not able to do it thyself, you teachest me what I must 
do"; and running himself through the belly he dropped upon the couch. 
But the wound did not bring a speedy death. Therefore, as the blood 
ceased flowing after he had lain down, he came to himself and besought 
the bystanders to give him the finishing stroke. But they fled from the 
chamber, and he lay writhing and crying out, until Diomedes the secre- 
tary came from Kleopatra with orders to bring him to her in the tomb. 

Having learned, then, that Kleopatra was alive, Antony eagerly or- 
dered his servants to raise him up, and he was carried in their arms to 
the doors of her tomb. Kleopatra, however, would not open the doors, 
but showed herself at a window, from which she let down ropes and cords. 
To these Antony was fastened, and she drew him up herself, with the aid 

126 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

of the two women whom alone she had admitted with her into the tomb. 
Never, as those who were present tell us, was there a more piteous sight. 
Smeared with blood and struggling with death he was drawn up, stretch- 
ing out his hands to her even as he dangled in the air. For the task was 
not an easy one for the women, and scarcely could Kleopatra, with cling- 
ing hands and strained face, pull up the rope, while those below called 
out encouragement to her and shared her agony. And when she had thus 
got him in and laid him down, she rent her garments over him, beat and 
tore her breasts with her hands, wiped off some of his blood upon her 
face, and called him master, husband, and imperator; indeed, she almost 
forgot her own ills in her pity for his. But Antony stopped her lamenta- 
tions and asked for a drink of wine, either because he was thirsty, or in 
the hope of a speedier release. When he had drunk, he advised her to 
consult her own safety, if she could do it without disgrace, and among all 
the companions of Caesar to put most confidence in Proculeius, and not 
to lament him for his last reverses, but to count him happy for the good 
things that had been his, since he had become most illustrious of men, 
had won greatest power, and now had been not ignobly conquered, a 
Roman by a Roman. 

Scarcely was he dead, when Proculeius came from Caesar. For after 
Antony had smitten himself and while he was being carried to Kleopa- 
tra, Dercetaeus, one of his body-guard, seized Antony's sword, concealed 
it, and stole away with it; and running to Caesar, he was the first to tell 
him of Antony's death, and showed him the sword all smeared with 
blood. When Caesar heard these tidings, he retired within his tent and 
wept for a man who had been his relation by marriage, his colleague in 
office and command, and his partner in many undertakings and strug- 
gles. Then he took the letters, which had passed between them, called 
in his friends, and read the letters aloud, showing how reasonably and 
justly he had written, and how rude and overbearing Antony had always 
been in his replies. After this, he sent Proculeius, bidding him, if possi- 
ble, above all things to get Kleopatra into his power alive; for he was 
fearful about the treasures in her funeral pyre, and he thought it would 
add greatly to the glory of his triumph if she were led in the procession. 
Into the hands of Proculeius, however, Kleopatra would not put herself; 
but she conferred with him after he had come close to the tomb and sta- 
tioned himself outside at a door, which was on a level with the ground. 
The door was strongly fastened with bolts and bars, but allowed a pas- 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 127 

sage for the voice. So they conversed, Kleopatra asking that her children 
might have the kingdom, and Proculeius bidding her be of good cheer 
and trust Caesar in everything. 

After Proculeius had surveyed the place, he brought back word to Cae- 
sar, and Gallus was sent to have another interview with the queen; and 
coming up to the door he purposely prolonged the conversation. Mean- 
while Proculeius applied a ladder and went in through the window by 
which the women had taken Antony inside. Then he went down at once 
to the very door at which Kleopatra was standing and listening to Gal- 
lus, and he had two servants with him. One of the women imprisoned 
with Kleopatra cried out, "Wretched Kleopatra, thou art taken alive," 
whereupon the queen turned about, saw Proculeius, and tried to stab her- 
self; for she had at her girdle a dagger such as robbers wear. But Proculeius 
ran swiftly to her, threw both his arms about her, and said: "O Kleopa- 
tra, thou art wronging both thyself and Caesar, by trying to rob him of 
an opportunity to show great kindness, and by fixing upon the gentlest 
of commanders the stigma of faithlessness and implacability." At the same 
time he took away her weapon, and shook out her clothing, to see 
whether she was concealing any poison. And there was also sent from 
Caesar one of his freedmen, Epaphroditos with injunctions to keep the 
queen alive by the strictest vigilance, but otherwise to make any con- 
cession that would promote her ease and pleasure. 

And now Caesar himself drove into the city, and he was conversing 
with Areios the philosopher, to whom he had given his right hand, in 
order that Areios might at once be conspicuous among the citizens, and 
be admired because of the marked honor shown him by Caesar. After he 
had entered the gymnasium and ascended a tribunal there made for him, 
the people were beside themselves with fear and prostrated themselves 
before him, but he bade them rise up, and said that he acquitted the peo- 
ple of all blame, first, because of Alexander, their founder; second, be- 
cause he admired the great size and beauty of the city; and third, to gratify 
his companion, Areios. This honor Caesar bestowed upon Areios, and 
pardoned many other persons also at his request. Among these was 
Philostratos, a man more competent to speak extempore than any sophist 
that ever lived, but he improperly represented himself as belonging to 
the school of the Academy. 

Therefore Caesar, abominating his ways, would not listen to his en- 
treaties. So Philostratos, having a long white beard and wearing a dark 

128 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

robe, would follow behind Areios, ever declaiming this verse: "A wise 
man will a wise man save, if wise he be." When Caesar heard of this, he 
pardoned him, wishing rather to free Areios from odium than Philostratos 
from fear. 

As for the children of Antony, Antyllus, his son by Fulvia, was be- 
trayed by Theodoras his tutor and put to death; and after the soldiers had 
cut off his head, his tutor took away the exceeding precious stone which 
the boy wore about his neck and sewed it into his own girdle; and though 
he denied the deed, he was convicted of it and crucified. Kleopatra's chil- 
dren, together with their attendants, were kept under guard and had gen- 
erous treatment. But Caesarion, who was said to be Kleopatra's son by 
Julius Caesar, was sent by his mother, with much treasure, into India, by 
way of Ethiopia. There Rhodon, another tutor like Theodorus, persuaded 
him to go back, on the ground that Caesar invited him to take the king- 
dom. But while Caesar was deliberating on the matter, we are told that 
Areios said: "Not a good thing were a Caesar too many." 

As for Caesarion, then, he was afterwards put to death by Caesar after 
the death of Kleopatra; but as for Antony, though many generals and 
kings asked for his body that they might give it burial, Caesar would not 
take it away from Kleopatra, and it was buried by her hands in sumptu- 
ous and royal fashion, such things being granted her for the purpose as 
she desired. But in consequence of so much grief as well as pain (for her 
breasts were wounded and inflamed by the blows she gave them) a fever 
assailed her, and she welcomed it as an excuse for abstaining from food 
and so releasing herself from life without hindrance. Moreover, there was 
a physician in her company of intimates, Olympos, to whom she told the 
truth, and she had his counsel and assistance in compassing her death, 
as Olympos himself testifies in a history of these events which he pub- 
lished. But Caesar was suspicious, and plied her with threats and fears re- 
garding her children, by which she was laid low, as by engines of war, and 
surrendered her body for such care and nourishment as was desired. 

After a few days Caesar himself came to talk with her and give her 
comfort. She was lying on a mean pallet-bed, clad only in her tunic, but 
sprang up as he entered and threw herself at his feet; her hair and face 
were in terrible disarray, her voice trembled, and her eyes were sunken. 
There were also visible many marks of the cruel blows upon her bosom; 
in a word, her body seemed to be no better off than her spirit. Never- 
theless, the charm for which she was famous and the boldness of her 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 129 

beauty were not altogether extinguished, but, although she was in such 
a sorry plight, they shone forth from within and made themselves man- 
ifest in the play of her features. After Caesar had bidden her to lie down 
and had seated himself near her, she began a sort of justification of her 
course, ascribing it to necessity and fear of Antony; but as Caesar op- 
posed and refuted her on every point, she quickly changed her tone and 
sought to move his pity by prayers, as one who above all things clung to 
life. And finally she gave him a list which she had of all her treasures; 
and when Seleukos, one of her stewards, showed conclusively that she 
was stealing away and hiding some of them, she sprang up, seized him by 
the hair, and showered blows upon his face. And when Caesar, with a 
smile, stopped her, she said: "But is it not a monstrous thing, O Caesar, 
that when thou hast deigned to come to me and speak to me though I 
am in this wretched plight, my slaves denounce me for reserving some 
women's adornments, — not for myself, indeed, unhappy woman that I 
am, — but that I may make trifling gifts to Octavia and thy Livia, and 
through their intercession find thee merciful and more gentle?" Caesar 
was pleased with this speech, being altogether of the opinion that she 
desired to live. He told her, therefore, that he left these matters for her 
to manage, and that in all other ways he would give her more splendid 
treatment than she could possibly expect. Then he went off, supposing 
that he had deceived her, but the rather deceived by her. 

Now, there was a young man of rank among Caesar's companions, 
named Cornelius Dolabella. This man was not without a certain tender- 
ness for Kleopatra; and so now, in response to her request, he secretly 
sent word to her that Caesar himself was preparing to march with his 
land forces through Syria, and had resolved to send off her and her chil- 
dren within three days. After Kleopatra had heard this, in the first place, 
she begged Caesar that she might be permitted to pour libations for 
Antony; and when the request was granted, she had herself carried to the 
tomb, and embracing the urn which held his ashes, in company with the 
women usually about her, she said: "Dear Antony, I buried thee but lately 
with hands still free; now, however, I pour libations for thee as a captive, 
and so carefully guarded that I cannot either with blows or tears disfig- 
ure this body of mine, which is a slave's body, and closely watched that 
it may grace the triumph over thee. Do not expect other honors or liba- 
tions; these are the last from Kleopatra the captive. For though in life 
nothing could part us from each other, in death we are likely to change 

130 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

places; thou, the Roman, lying buried here, while I, the hapless woman, 
lie in Italy, and get only so much of thy country as my portion. But if in- 
deed there is any might or power in the gods of that country (for the gods 
of this country have betrayed us), do not abandon thine own wife while 
she lives, nor permit a triumph to be celebrated over myself in my per- 
son, but hide and bury me here with thyself, since out of all my innu- 
merable ills not one is so great and dreadful as this short time that I have 
lived apart from thee." 

After such lamentations, she wreathed and kissed the urn, and then 
ordered a bath to be prepared for herself. After her bath, she reclined at 
table and was making a sumptuous meal. And there came a man from 
the country carrying a basket; and when the guards asked him what he 
was bringing there, he opened the basket, took away the leaves, and 
showed them that the dish inside was full of figs. The guards were amazed 
at the great size and beauty of the figs, whereupon the man smiled and 
asked them to take some; so they felt no mistrust and bade him take them 
in. After her meal, however, Kleopatra took a tablet, which was already 
written upon and sealed, and sent it to Caesar, and then, sending away 
all the rest of the company except her two faithful women, she closed 
the doors. 

But Caesar opened the tablet, and when he found there lamentations 
and supplications of one who begged that he would bury her with Antony, 
he quickly knew what had happened. At first he was minded to go him- 
self and give aid; then he ordered messengers to go with all speed and in- 
vestigate. But the mischief had been swift. For though his messengers 
came on the run and found the guards as yet aware of nothing, when they 
opened the doors they found Kleopatra lying dead upon a golden couch, 
arrayed in royal state. And of her two women, the one called Iras was 
dying at her feet, while Charmion, already tottering and heavy-handed, 
was trying to arrange the diadem which encircled the queen's brow. 

Then somebody said in anger: "A fine deed, this, Charmion!" "It is in- 
deed most fine," she said, "and befitting the descendant of so many kings." 
Not a word more did she speak, but fell there by the side of the couch. 
It is said that the asp was brought with those figs and leaves and lay hid- 
den beneath them, for thus Kleopatra had given orders, that the reptile 
might fasten itself upon her body without her being aware of it. But when 
she took away some of the figs and saw it, she said: "There it is, you see," 
and baring her arm she held it out for the bite. But others say that the 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 131 

asp was kept carefully shut up in a water jar, and that while Kleopatra 
was stirring it up and irritating it with a golden distaff it sprang and fas- 
tened itself upon her arm. But the truth of the matter no one knows; for 
it was also said that she carried about poison in a hollow comb and kept 
the comb hidden in her hair; and yet neither spot nor other sign of poi- 
son broke out upon her body. Moreover, not even was the reptile seen 
within the chamber, though people said they saw some traces of it near 
the sea, where the chamber looked out upon it with its windows. And 
some also say that Kleopatra's arm was seen to have two slight and in- 
distinct punctures; and this Caesar also seems to have believed. For in 
his triumph an image of Kleopatra herself with the asp clinging to her 
was carried in the procession. 

These, then, are the various accounts of what happened. But Caesar, 
although vexed at the death of the woman, admired her lofty spirit; and 
he gave orders that her body should be buried with that of Antony in 
splendid and regal fashion. Her women also received honorable interment 
by his orders. When Kleopatra died she was forty years of age save one, 
and had shared her power with Antony more than fourteen. Antony was 
fifty-six years of age, according to some, according to others, fifty-three. 
Now, the statues of Antony were torn down, but those of Kleopatra were 
left standing, because Archibios, one of her friends, gave Caesar two thou- 
sand talents, in order that they might not suffer the same fate as Antony's. 

Antony left seven children by his three wives, of whom Antyllus, the 
eldest, was the only one who was put to death by Caesar; the rest were 
taken up by Octavia and reared with her own children. Kleopatra, the 
daughter of Kleopatra, Octavia gave in marriage to Juba, the most ac- 
complished of kings, and Antony, the son of Fulvia, she raised so high 
that, while Agrippa held the first place in Caesar's estimation, and the 
sons of Livia the second, Antony was thought to be and really was third. 
By Marcellus Octavia had two daughters, and one son, Marcellus, whom 
Caesar made both his son and his son-in-law, and he gave one of the 
daughters to Agrippa. But since Marcellus died very soon after his mar- 
riage and it was not easy for Caesar to select from among his other friends 
a son-in-law whom he could trust, Octavia proposed that Agrippa should 
take Caesar's daughter to wife, and put away her own. First Caesar was 
persuaded by her, then Agrippa, whereupon she took back her own 
daughter and married her to young Antony, while Agrippa married Cae- 
sar's daughter. Antony left two daughters by Octavia, of whom one was 

132 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

taken to wife by Domitius Ahenobarbus, and the other, Antonia, famous 
for her beauty and discretion, was married to Drusus, who was the son of 
Livia and the step-son of Caesar. From this marriage sprang Germanicus 
and Claudius; of these, Claudius afterwards came to the throne, and of 
the children of Germanicus, Caius reigned with distinction, but for a 
short time only, and was then put to death with his wife and child, and 
Agrippina, who had a son by Ahenobarbus, Lucius Domitius, became the 
wife of Claudius Caesar. And Claudius, having adopted Agrippina's son, 
gave him the name of Nero Germanicus. This Nero came to the throne 
in my time. He killed his mother, and by his folly and madness came near 
subverting the Roman empire. He was the fifth in descent from Antony. 

From Plutarch, life of Antony, Plutarch's Lives, trans. Bernadotte Perrin (Lon- 
don: William Heinemann, 1920), pp. 187-333. 

The Meaning of the Battle of Actium in Roman Eyes 

With the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra's fleet in the Battle of Ac- 
tium, Octavian's domination of the Roman empire was confirmed. A 
group of talented writers, who were his clients, provided the definitive in- 
terpretation of the significance of his victory for future generations of Ro- 
mans. In the first selection, the poet Horace celebrates the return of peace 
and Rome's escape from Cleopatra's evil plans. In the second selection 
from Rome's national epic, the Aeneid, Horace's friend Virgil interprets 
the significance of the battle in the broad sweep of Roman history, view- 
ing it as the decisive conflict between the sober values of Rome, champi- 
oned by Octavian, and the corrupt values of the orient, represented by 
Egypt and Cleopatra. 

Now is the time to drain the flowing bowl, now with unfettered foot to 
beat the ground with dancing, now with Salian feast to deck the couches 
of the gods, my comrades! Before this day it had been wrong to bring our 
Caecuban froth from ancient bins, while yet a frenzied queen was plot- 
ting ruin against the Capitol and destruction to the empire, with her pol- 
luted crew of creatures foul with lust — a woman mad enough to nurse 
the wildest hopes, and drunk with Fortune's favors. But the escape of 
scarce a single galley from the flames sobered her fury, and Caesar 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 133 

changed the wild delusions bred by Mareotic wine to the stern reality of 
terror, chasing her with his galleys, as she [Cleopatra] sped away from 
Italy, even as the hawk pursues the gentle dove, or the swift hunter fol- 
lows the hare over the plains of snow-clad Thessaly, with purpose fixed 
to put in chains the accursed monster. Yet she, seeking to die a nobler 
death, showed for the dagger's point no woman's fear, nor sought to win 
with her swift fleet some secret shore; she even dared to gaze with serene 
face upon her fallen palace; courageous, too, to handle poisonous asps, 
that she might draw black venom to her heart, waxing as she resolved to 
die; scorning, in truth, the thought of being borne, a queen no longer, 
on hostile galleys to grace a glorious triumph — no cowardly woman she! 

From Horace, Odes 1:37, in The Odes and Epodes, trans. C. E. Bennett (London: 
William Heinemann, 1914) pp. 99-101. 

Amidst these scenes flowed wide the likeness of the swelling sea, all gold, 
but the blue water foamed with white billows, and round about dolphins, 
shining in silver, swept the seas with their tails in circles, and cleft the 
tide. In the center could be seen brazen ships with Actium's battle; one 
might see all Leucadia aglow with War's array, and the waves ablaze with 
gold. Here Augustus Caesar, leading Italians to strife, with peers and peo- 
ple, and the great gods of the Penates, stands on the lofty stern; his joy- 
ous brows pour forth a double flame, and on his head dawns his father's 
star. Elsewhere Agrippa with favoring winds and gods, high towering, 
leads his column; his brows gleam with the beaks of the naval crown, 
proud device of war. Here Antonius with barbaric might and varied arms, 
victor from the nations of the dawn and from the red sea, brings with 
him Egypt and the strength of the East and utmost Bactra; and there fol- 
lows him (O shame!) his Egyptian wife. 

All rush on at once, and the whole sea foams, torn up by the sweep- 
ing oars, and triple-pointed beaks. To the deep they speed; you would be- 
lieve the Cyclades, uprooted, were floating on the sea, or that high 
mountains clashed with mountains; in such mighty ships the seamen as- 
sail the towered sterns. Flaming cloth and shafts of winged steel are show- 
ered from their hands; Neptune's fields redden with strange slaughter. In 
the midst the queen calls upon her hosts with their native cymbal, nor 
as yet casts back a glance at the twin snakes behind. Monstrous gods of 
every form and barking Anubis wield weapons against Neptune and 

134 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

Venus and against Minerva. In the midst of the battle storms Mavors, 
embossed in steel, with the grim Furies from on high; and in torn robe 
Discord strides in joy; while Bellona follows her with bloody whip. Act- 
ian Apollo saw the sight, and from above was bending his bow; at that 
terror all Egypt and India, all Arabians, all Sabaeans, turned to flee. 

The queen herself was seen to woo the winds, spread sail, and now, 
even now, fling loose the slackened sheets. Her, amid the carnage, the 
Lord of Fire had made pale at the coming of death, borne on by waves 
and the wind of Iapyx; while over against her was the mourning Nile, of 
mighty frame, opening wide his folds and with all his garments welcom- 
ing the defeated to his azure lap and sheltering streams. 

From Virgil, Aeneid 8, lines 671-713, in The Aeneid 7—12: The Minor Poems, 
trans. H. R. Fairclough (London: William Heinemann, 1918), pp. 107-9. 

The Administration of Ptolemaic Egypt: Ideal and Reality 

The administration of Ptolemaic Egypt exemplifies the conflict between 
ideal and reality. The first selection is from an essay on the ideal admin- 
istrator supposedly written by a senior financial official to a new district 
administrator. In it the author emphasizes the need for a administrator to 
be of upright character and to fairly implement government policy while 
being alert to the efforts of the kingdom's Egyptian subjects to evade their 
obligations. The second and third selections are from royal decrees that re- 
veal how Ptolemaic government actually worked. The amnesty decree is- 
sued by Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra II and Cleopatra HI in 118 B.C.E. 
throws a bright light on widespread corruption by government officials and 
the efforts of the king to control it. The references to various kinds of il- 
legal activities by officials in the decree of Cleopatra VII granting privi- 
leges to Quintus Cascellius demonstrates that the same problems continued 
right up to the end of Ptolemaic history. The final document in this sec- 
tion makes clear that these problems were not limited to the central gov- 
ernment but were common even at the village level. 

During your tours of inspection, try, while making your rounds, to en- 
courage each individual and to make them bolder. Do this not only by 
word but also, if some of them lay a complaint against the village scribes 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 135 

or headmen concerning some matter pertaining to farming, look into it 
and, so far as you can, put an end to such situations. And when the sow- 
ing has been completed, it would not be a bad idea if you made a care- 
ful inspection; for, thus, you will accurately observe the sprouting, and 
you will easily identify the fields that have been improperly sown or not 
sown at all; and you will learn from this those who were careless and you 
will know if some have employed the seeds for other purposes. In addi- 
tion, the sowing of the nome in accordance with the plan for planting is 
to be one of your prime concerns. And if some are suffering because of 
their rents or even have been completely ruined, do not allow this to be 
unexamined. Also, make a list of the oxen involved in farming, both 
royal and private, and exercise due care that the calves of the royal cat- 
tle, when they are ready to eat hay, are sent to the calf-rearing barns. 

It is your responsibility also that the designated provisions are trans- 
ported to Alexandria — of these we are sending you a list — on schedule, 
and not only in the proper amount, but also tested and suitable for con- 
sumption. Go also to the weaving sheds in which the linen is woven and 
take special care that as many as possible of the looms are in operation 
and that the weavers are completing the amount of fabric specified in the 
plan. If some are behind in their assigned work, let them be fined for each 
category the scheduled price. Moreover, to the end that the linen be us- 
able and have the number of threads specified in the regulation, pay care- 
ful attention. As for looms that are not in operation, have all of them 
transported to the nome metropolis and stored in the storerooms under 
seal. Conduct an audit also of the revenues, if it is possible, village by 
village, and this seems to be not impossible if you zealously apply your- 
self to the task; but if not, then toparchy by toparchy, accepting in the 
audit with regard to money taxes only what has been deposited at the 
bank; and with regard to the grain taxes and oil produce what has been 
measured and received by the sitologoi. If there is any deficiency in these, 
compel the toparchs and the tax farmers to pay to the banks for arrears 
in the grain tax the price specified in the schedule and for arrears in the 
oil produce by wet measure according to each category. . . . 

As the revenue from the pasture dues is among the most significant, 
it will be particularly increased if you conduct the census in the best way. 
The most suitable time for it is around the month of Mesore, for, at this 
time, because the whole land is covered by the flood waters, the herds- 
men send their herds to the highest places, as they are unable to disperse 

136 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

them to other places. You should also take care that goods are not sold 
for more than the specified prices. As for those goods without set prices 
and for which the vendors may charge what they wish, examine this care- 
fully and, having determined a moderate profit for the merchandise being 
sold, compel the [ ] make the disposition. . . . 

Make a list also of the royal houses and of the gardens associated with 
them and who is supposed to care for each, and inform us. Further, it 
should be your concern also that affairs regarding the machimoi be han- 
dled in accordance with the memorandum which we drafted concerning 
persons who had absconded from their tasks and [ ] sailors in order 
that to [ ] the prisoners be confined until their transportation to 
Alexandria. Take particular care that no fraud occur or any other wrong- 
ful act, for it ought to be clearly understood by everyone living in the 
countryside and believed that all such matters have been corrected and 
that they are free from the former evil conditions, since no one has the 
power to do what he wishes but everything is being managed in the best 
way. Thus you will create security in the countryside and (increase) the 
revenues significantly. . . . 

The reasons I sent you to the nome, I told you, but I thought it would 
be good also to send you a written copy of them in this memorandum. 
Afterwards, you should behave well and be upright in your duties, not 
become involved with bad company, avoid any involvement in corrup- 
tion, believe that if you are not accused of such things, you will merit 
promotion, have this memorandum at hand and write concerning each 
matter as required. 

From '"Take Particular Care That No Fraud Occur': The Ideal of Honest and 
Efficient Administration: P. Tebtunis 703." In Stanley M. Burstein, The Hel- 
lenistic Age from the Battle oflpsos to the Death of Kleopatra VII (Cambridge: Cam- 
bridge University Press, 1985), pp. 128-29. 

Col. I 

King Ptolemy and Queen Kleopatra, the sister, and Queen Kleopatra, the 
Wife, pardon those subject to their rule, all of them, for errors, wrongful 
acts, accusations, condemnations, charges of all sorts up to the 9th of 
Pharmouthi of the 52nd year except those guilty of willful murder and 
sacrilege. They have given orders also that those who have fled because 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 137 

of being accused of theft and other charges shall return to their own 
homes and resume their former occupations, and that they shall recover 
whatever of their property still remains unsold from that which had been 
seized as security because of these matters. 

Col. II 

They have given orders also that all those having land allotments and 
all those in possession of sacred land and other released land, who have 
intruded into royal land and others who possess more land than is proper, 
having withdrawn from all excess they possess and having declared them- 
selves and paid a year's rent in kind, shall be forgiven for the period up 
to year 51 — and they shall have full possession. 

Col. Ill 

No one is to take away anything consecrated to the gods by force nor to 
apply forceful persuasion to the managers of the sacred revenues, whether 
villages or land or other sacred revenues, nor are taxes on associations or 
crowns or grain-taxes to be collected by anyone from property conse- 
crated to the gods nor are the sacred lands to be placed under patronage 
on any pretext, but they are to allow them to be managed by the priests 

Col. IV 

They have given orders that the costs for the burial of Apis and Mnevis 
are to be sought from the royal treasury as also in the case of those who 
have been deified. Likewise, also the costs of the other sacred animals. 

Col. VIII 

They have given orders that strategoi and other officials are not to seize 
any of those living in the countryside for their private purposes nor are 
their animals to be requisitioned for any of their personal needs nor are 

138 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

their cattle to be seized nor are they to be forced to raise sacred animals 
or geese or birds or pigs or to furnish grain at a low price or in return for 
renewals of their leases nor to compel tasks to be performed by them as 
a gift on any pretext. 

Col. IX 

They have given orders also concerning suits of Egyptians against Greeks 
and concerning suits of Greeks against Egyptians or of Egyptians against 
Greeks of all categories except those of persons farming royal land and 
of those bound to government tasks and of others connected with the 
revenues, that those Egyptians who have made contracts in the Greek 
manner with Greeks shall be sued and sue before the chrematistai. All 
Greeks who make contracts in the Egyptian manner shall be sued before 
the laokritai in accordance with the laws of the country. The cases of 
Egyptians against Egyptians are not to be usurped by the chrematistai, but 
they are to allow them to be settled before the laokritai in accordance 
with the laws of the country. 

From "Administrative Oppression in Ptolemaic Egypt: The Amnesty of 118 b.c.e." 
In Stanley M. Burstein, The Hellenistic Age from the Battle of Ipsos to the Death of 
Kleopatra Vll (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 139-40. 

Decree of Cleopatra VII in Favor of Quintus 
Cascellius (33 b.c.e.) 

Received year 18 which is year 4, 26th day of Mecheir 


We have granted to Quintus Cascellius and to his heirs the right to 
export annually ten thousand artabas of grain and to import five thou- 
sand amphoras of Coan wine without tax being levied by anyone or any 
other cost at all. We have also granted that all of his property in the 
country shall be exempt from taxes so that nothing will ever be exacted 
in any manner for the government administration or for the private ac- 
count of us. ... In addition his agricultural workers shall be exempt from 
personal service and taxes levied by anyone, nor shall they be liable for 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 139 

occasional special levies in the nomes nor shall they be liable for civilian 
or military expenses. The animals used for agricultural work, beasts of 
burden, and boats used to transport grain shall in the same way be ex- 
empt from personal service, taxes, and seizure. Write to whomever it is 
appropriate in order that they may know and act accordingly. 

Let it be so. 
(Archival notation) 475 

To Dioskourides, chief bodyguard of the king and dioiketes, from Har- 
mais son of Marres, royal cultivator from Theadelphia of the Thernistos 
division of the Arsinoite nome. Because I am greatly wronged and chased 
from my home [ ] by Mesthasythmis the komarch of the village, I have 
fled to you to receive help. For in the 27th year, when I had been ap- 
pointed by Mesthasythmis as dekanos of royal cultivators in the village, 
and he made a substantial paralogeia each year from the same cultivators 
[V2] artaba of wheat per aroura and 90 drachmas of bronze, from which 
he was amassing it to be stolen. Appointing (?) along with me his own 
secretary, Pnepheros son of Petesouchos, for the paralogeia of the bronze, 
and Kollouthes son of Patis and Tothoes son of Papentpos his . . . for that 
of the wheat, to . . . everything in the month of Pachon to ship, namely 
the half-artaba of wheat per aroura and 85 drachmas of bronze. 

And in the 28th year, a certain Seleukos who had made a complaint 
against him concerning the same paralogeiai and other taxes, was basely 
seized by Seleukos . . . their testimony from the documents which he had 
recovered. But when he fled to the Temple of Sarapis in the village be- 
cause of his knowledge of these matters, the aforementioned Mesthasyth- 
mis did not . . . until . . . shook him down ... all the documents 
concerning the affairs relating to Seleukos, 68 drachmas of silver. Simi- 
larly, in the payment which he made to the treasury ... in the Temple 
of Sarapis in the village, from which were gathered a total of 500 artabas 
of wheat. And entering into the royal granary, he abstracted from the 
seed-grain on deposit there, from which ... of mine alone 75 artabas, 
which he appropriated, with the rest of the remainder of the 500 artabas, 
which also had been exported for sale through Kollouthes and Thasos his 
mother and Kollouthis his wife. 

Moreover, in the 29th year he compelled us to take charge of the same 
paralogeia, for a half-artaba and 50dr. of bronze for each aroura, which was 
exacted illegally through us and Thothoes son of Papentpos by the six- 
choinix measure of the village, and the wheat was stored in the houses 

140 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

of Limnaios and Leontomenes the 80-aroura settler, and the bronze 
money was turned over to Mesthasythmis himself. After this ... in the 
30th year, when documents arrived locally . . . and I informed 
Mesthasythmis . . . but after I sailed down to the city so as to sell the (pro- 
duce?) from the previous (?), being bad by nature, he brought a charge 
against me and handed me over to the jail in Krokodilopolis. . . . He did 
not release me until he compelled me to . . . execute a cession in his favor 
of the royal land which I farm, along with the crop on it, until I paid 
him. Since he brought to the matter loss . . . , and in addition he confis- 
cated the seed-grain lying in the royal granary to the amount of 150 
artabas, in place of which . . . with many shortfalls, in addition to 
which ... so that no loss would occur to the treasury. Entangled with an 
evil man, then, I set out for flight to the king and queen after explain- 
ing everything in writing. Taking policemen and his overseers with the 
same intention, he had the roads watched closely, wanting to drag me 
back to prison so that I could not sail down to the city and give testi- 
mony. Therefore, addressing ... I ask that if you please you give orders 
to . . . my testimony about these things . . . and if this happens I shall 
have been helped. Farewell. 

(Subscription) ... let a written statement of the witnesses be sent from 
those present. Year 30, Choiak 22. 

From "Extortion Racket Run by a Village Headman." In Roger S. Bagnall and 
Peter Derow, eds., The Hellenistic Period: Historical Sources in Translation (Ox- 
ford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004), pp. 159-60. Ellipses indicate incomplete 

Cleopatra's Alexandria 

The Greek geographer Strabo visited Alexandria in the late 20s B.C.E. , 
a little less than a decade after Cleopatra died. His brief description of the 
city provides essential evidence for Alexandria at the peak of its prosper- 
ity and prestige. Strabo, however, views Alexandria from a colonial per- 
spective, considering only the Greek aspect of the city as significant and 
ignoring its Egyptian monuments. The second century B.C.E. author of 
the Potter's Oracle provides a radically different point of view, seeing 
Alexandria as the center of foreign rule and oppression. Like other exam- 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 141 

pies of the genre of prophetic texts, he paints a picture of Egypt under 
Ptolemaic Egypt as turned upside down. Nature and civil society are both 
dominated by the forces of evil. Justice will return only when Alexandria 
and its Greek inhabitants disappear and the gods return to Memphis and 
a true king rules in the ancient capital of Eg)>pt. 

The site of Alexandria is advantageous for many reasons. For the city is 
bounded by two seas, on the north by the so-called Egyptian sea and on 
the south by Lake Mareia, which is also called Mareotis. The Nile fills 
Lake Mareia through many canals from both the south and the sides. 
Through these canals many more goods are brought to Alexandria than 
arrive from the sea, so that the lakeside harbor is richer than that on the 
sea, and by it more goods are exported from Alexandria than are im- 
ported into the city. . . . 

The ground plan of the city is shaped like a military cloak. The long 
sides, which are both bounded by water, are thirty stades across. The short 
sides are formed by the isthmuses, which are each seven or eight stades in 
breadth and are hemmed in by the sea on one side and the lake on the 
other. The whole city is cut up by streets suitable for the riding of horses 
and the driving of chariots. Two, which are especially broad — being more 
than a plethron wide — meet at right angles and bisect each other. 

Alexandria has many fine public precincts and palaces, which occupy 
a fourth or even a third of the city's whole perimeter; for just as each of 
the kings added some adornment to its public monuments, so each added 
his own residence to those already existing so that, in the words of Homer, 
"one was on top of another." All the palaces are connected to each other 
and to the harbor, including those outside the harbor. The Museum forms 
one portion of the palaces. It has a walkway, an arcade with benches, and 
a large building in which is located the dining hall of the scholars who 
belong to the Museum. The faculty has both property in common and a 
priest, who is in charge of the Museum and was formerly appointed by 
the kings and is now by Caesar [Augustus]. Also part of the palace com- 
plex is the building called the Sema, which is a circular structure in which 
are the tombs of the kings and that of Alexander. Ptolemy, the son of 
Lagus, because of greed and the desire to seize control of Egypt, antici- 
pated Perdikkas by stealing the body of Alexander when he was bring- 
ing it back from Babylon and was turning toward this country. . . . Having 
brought the body of Alexander to Egypt, Ptolemy buried it in Alexan- 

142 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

dria, where it now still lies, but not, however, in the same sarcophagus; 
for the present one is of glass, but Ptolemy buried it in one of gold. 

From "Alexandria in the Age of Cleopatra." In D. Brendan Nagle and Stanley 
M. Burstein, T/ie Ancient World: Readings in Social and Cultural History (Engle- 
wood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995), pp. 154-55. 

The river, [since it will not have] sufficient water, [will flood], but only 
a little so that scorched will be [the land ] but unnaturally. [For] in 
the [time] of the Typhonians [people will say] "Wretched Egypt, [you have 
been] maltreated by the [terrible] malefactors who have committed evil 
against you." And the sun will darken as it will not be willing to observe 
the evils in Egypt. The earth will not respond to seeds. These will be part 
of its blight. [The] farmer will be dunned for taxes for what he did not 
plant. There will be fighting in Egypt because people will be in need of 
food. What one plants, [another] will slaughter which [will kill] brothers 
and wives. For [these things will happen] when the great god Hephais- 
tos will desire to return to the [city], and the Girdlewearers (sc. Greeks) 
will kill each other as they [are Typhonians. ] evil will be done. And 
he will pursue (them) on foot [to the] sea [in] wrath and destroy many 
of them because [they are] impious. The king will come from Syria, he 
who will be hateful to all men, [ ] . . . and from Aithiopia there will 
come . . . He (together with some) of the unholy ones (will come) to 
Egypt, and he will settle [in the city, which] later will be deserted. . . . 
Their children will be made weak, and the country will be in confusion, 
and many of the inhabitants of Egypt will abandon their homes and travel 
to foreign places. Then there will be slaughter among friends; and peo- 
ple will lament their own problems although they are less than those of 
others. Men will die at the hands of each other; two of them will come 
to the same place to aid one. Among women who are pregnant death will 
also be common. The Girdlewearers will kill themselves as they also are 
Typhonians. Then Agathos Daimon will abandon the city (sc. Alexan- 
dria) that had been founded and enter Memphis, and the city of for- 
eigners, which had been founded, will be deserted. This will happen at 
the end of the evils of the time when there came to Egypt a crowd of 
foreigners. The city of the Girdlewearers will be abandoned like my kiln 
because of the crimes, which they committed against Egypt. The cult im- 
ages, which had been transported there, will be brought back again to 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 143 

Egypt; and the city by the sea will be a refuge for fishermen because 
Agathos Daimon and Knephis will have gone to Memphis, so that 
passersby will say "All-nurturing was this city in which every race of men 
settled." Then will Egypt flourish when the generous fifty-five year ruler 
appears, the king descended from Helios, the giver of good things, the 
one installed by the greatest, so that the living will pray that the dead 
might arise to share the prosperity. Finally the leaves will fall. The Nile, 
which had lacked water, will be full and winter, which had changed its 
orderly ways, will run its proper course and then summer will resume its 
own track, and normal will be the wind's breezes, which previously had 
been weak. For in the time of the Typhonians the sun will darken to 
highlight the character of the evils and to reveal the greed of the 
Girdlewearers. And Egypt [ ]. Having spoken clearly up to this point, 
he fell silent. King Amenophis, who was grieved by the many disasters 
he had recounted, buried the potter in Heliopolis and placed the book 
in the sacred archives there and unselfishly revealed it to all men. Speech 
of the potter to King Amenophis, <translated> as accurately as possible, 
concerning what will happen in Egypt. 

From "A World without Greeks: The Potter's Oracle." In Stanley M. Burstein, 
The Hellenistic Age from the Battle of Ipsos to the Death of Kleopatra Vll (Cam- 
bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 136-137. 

Ptolemaic Egypt: A Multicultural Society 

The six documents in this section illustrate the complexity of social 
relations in Ptolemaic Egypt. The first three selections document the ex' 
istence of tension between the native Egyptian population and privileged 
Greek and Jewish immigrants. It is a mistake, however, to see Ptole- 
maic Egypt as divided into mutually hostile ethnic groups. The Rosetta 
stone commemorates the coronation of Ptolemy V in J 96 B.C.E. ac- 
cording to Egyptian rites, and highlights the mutual dependence of the 
Egyptian priesthood and the royal family . The fifth and sixth selections — 
the tomb biography of Pasherenptah 111, highpriest ofPtah, and an hon- 
orary decree for Kallimakhos, governor of the Thebaid — reveal the 
thoroughly multicultural character of the elite of Egypt in the time of 
Cleopatra Vll. 

144 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

... to Zenon, greeting. You do well if you keep your health. I too am 
well. You know that you left me in Syria with Krotos and I did every- 
thing that was ordered in respect to the camels and was blameless to- 
ward you. When you sent an order to give me pay, he gave nothing of 
what you ordered. When I asked repeatedly that he give me what you 
ordered and Krotos gave me nothing, but kept telling me to remove 
myself, I held out for a long time waiting for you; but when I was in 
want of necessities and could get nothing anywhere, I was compelled 
to run away into Syria so that I might not perish of hunger. So I wrote 
you that you might know that Krotos was the cause of it. When you 
sent me again to Philadelphia to Jason, although I do everything that 
is ordered, for nine months now he gives me nothing of what you or- 
dered me to have, neither oil nor grain, except at two month periods, 
when he pays the clothing (allowances). And I am in difficulty both 
summer and winter. And he orders me to accept ordinary wine for 
salary. Well, they have treated me with scorn because I am a "barbar- 
ian." I beg you therefore, if it seems good to you, to give them orders 
that I am to obtain what is owing and that in future they pay me in 
full, in order that I may not perish of hunger because I do not know 
how to act like a Greek. You, therefore, kindly cause a change in atti- 
tude toward me. I pray to all the gods and to the guardian divinity of 
the King that you remain and come to us so that you may yourself see 
that I am blameless. Farewell. 

From "A Case of Discrimination." In Business Papers of the Third Century B.C. 
Dealing with Palestine and Egypt, vol. 2, ed. W. L. Westermann, C. W. Keyes, and 
H. Liebesny (New York: Columbia University Press, 1940), n. 66. 

To Dionysios one of the friends and strategos, from Ptolemaios, son of 
Glaukias, Macedonian, of those in katoche in the great Serapeum in 
Memphis in my 12th year. Being outrageously wronged and often put in 
danger of my life by the below-listed cleaners from the sanctuary, I am 
seeking refuge with you thinking that I shall thus particularly receive jus- 
tice. For in the 21st year, on Phaophi 8, they came to the Astartieion in 
the sanctuary, in which I have been in katoche for the aforesaid years, 
some of them holding stones in their hands, others sticks, and tried to 
force their way in, so that with this opportunity they might plunder the 
temple and kill me because I am a Greek, attacking me in concerted fash- 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 145 

ion. And when I made it to the door of the temple before them and shut 
it with a great crash, and ordered them to go away quietly, they did not 
depart; but they struck Diphilos, one of the servants compelled to remain 
by Sarapis, who showed his indignation at the way they were behaving 
in the sanctuary, robbing him outrageously and attacking him violently 
and beating him, so that their illegal violence was made obvious to every- 
body. When the same men did the same things to me in Phaophi of the 
19th year, I petitioned you at that time, but because I had no one to wait 
on you it happened that when they went unwarned they conceived an 
even greater scorn for me. I ask you, therefore, if it seems good to you, 
to order them brought before you, so that they may get the proper pun- 
ishment for all these things. Farewell. 

Mys the clothing seller, Psoisnaus the yoke-bearer, Imouthes the baker, 
Harembasnis the grain-seller, Stotoetis the porter, Harchebis the doucher, 
Po [ ] os the carpet weaver, and others with them, whose names I do 
not know. 

From "Petition Concerning an Assault on a Greek (UPZ 18 328 )." In Roger S. 
Bagnall and Peter Derow, eds., The Hellenistic Period: Historical Sources in Trans- 
lation (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004), pp. 232-33. 

For he [Lysimachos] says that in the reign of Bocchoris, the king of Egypt, 
the Jewish people, who were lepers and had scabs and other illnesses, 
took refuge in the temples and asked for food. There were, however, very 
many people whose illnesses required care and there was a famine in 
Egypt. Bocchoris, the king of the Egyptians, sent to Ammon men to con- 
sult the oracle about the famine, and the god replied that he was to 
cleanse the temples of the unholy and impious men, driving them from 
the temples into the desert, to drown those with scabs and the lepers be- 
cause the sun was angry at their life, and he was to consecrate the tem- 
ples, and in this way the earth would become fruitful. 

After receiving the oracle, Bocchoris summoned the priests and the 
sacriflcers, and ordered them to select out the impure people and to hand 
them over to the soldiers, who would lead them into the desert, and 
would bind the lepers in lead sheets so they would sink into the sea. After 
the lepers and the people afflicted with scabs had been drowned, the rest 
who had been gathered together in desolate places were left to die. They, 
however, assembled and took thought for themselves, and when night 

146 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

came, they saved themselves by kindling fire and torches. On the next 
night they fasted and appealed to the gods to save them. The next day 
a certain Moses advised them to set out on a new course and follow a 
straight path until they came to places that were inhabited. He also ad- 
vised them to display good will to no man nor to give good advice but 
always bad, and to destroy the temples and altars of the gods they might 

After the rest of the people agreed, and they did what had been de- 
cided, traveling through the desert. After suffering considerably, they 
came to inhabited land; and after abusing the people and looting and 
burning the temples, they entered the country now called Judaea, and 
founded a city and settled down there. This city was called "Hierosyla" 
("City of Temple-Robbers") from the character of the people. Later, how- 
ever, when they had become powerful, they changed the name to one 
that was not offensive, and called the city Hierosolyma and themselves 

From "An Antisemitic Account of the Exodus." In Josephos, Against Apion 
1.304, trans. Stanley M. Burstein. 

Titles of Ptolemy V as Pharaoh 

In the reign of the young (god) who received the kingship from his father, 
Lord of crowns, great of fame, who established Egypt, and toward the gods 
is reverent, victorious over his enemies; who improved the life of men, lord 
of the thirty-year cycle as Hephaistos the Great, (and) king just as Helios; 
great king of the upper and lower lands, son of the gods Philopatores, whom 
Hephaistos approved, to whom Helios gave victory, living image of Zeus; 
son of Helios, Ptolemy, living forever, beloved of Ptah. Ninth year, in 
which Aetos, son of Aetos, is priest of Alexander and of the gods Soteres 
and of the gods Adelphoi and of the gods Euergetes and of the gods 
Philopatores and of the gods Epiphanes Eucharistos, and in which the 
athlophoros of Berenike Euergetes is Pynha, the daughter of Philon, the 
kanephoros of Arsinoe Philadelphos is Areia, the daughter of Diogenes, 
the priestess of Arsinoe Philopator is Eirene, the daughter of Ptolemy. 
Fourth day of the month Xandikos and the eighteenth day of the Egypt- 
ian month Mecheir. 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 147 


The high priest and prophets and those who enter the sanctuary for the 
robing of the gods, and the feather bearers and the sacred scribes and all 
the other priests, who, having come from the temples in the country to 
Memphis to be with the king for the celebration of the coronation of 
Ptolemy, living forever, beloved of Ptah, Epiphanes Eucharistos, succes- 
sor of his father, and having met in the temple at Memphis on this day, 
introduced the following motion. King Ptolemy, living forever, beloved 
of Ptah, Epiphanes Eucharistos, son of King Ptolemy and Queen Arsi- 
noe, Gods Philopatores, has conferred benefits in many ways on the tem- 
ples and their staffs and on all those subject to his rule, as he is a god 
from a god and goddess just as Horos, the son of Isis and Osiris, the de- 
fender of his father Osiris; (and) being in matters concerning the gods 
benevolently inclined, he has assigned to the temples revenues in money 
and grain; and he has undertaken many expenses for the purpose of mak- 
ing Egypt prosperous and establishing the temples. With his own re- 
sources he has assisted everyone; and of the imposts and taxes in Egypt, 
some he has remitted entirely and others he has lightened in order that 
the people and everyone else may live in prosperity during his reign; and 
debts owed the crown by those in Egypt and the rest of his kingdom he 
has cancelled; and those being held in jails and those who had been de- 
tained because of accusations for a long time he has freed of charges. 
Likewise also he distributed justice to all just as Hermes the Great; and 
he gave orders that those of the machimoi who had returned together with 
the others who had been disaffected during the period of disturbances 
should remain in their own homes. He also provided that cavalry and in- 
fantry forces and ships be sent against those attacking Egypt by sea and 
land, undertaking great expenditures of money and provisions so that the 
temples and all in Egypt might be secure. And having arrived at Lykopo- 
lis in the Bousirite (nome), which had been seized and had been readied 
for a siege with an abundant store of weapons and all other provisions 
since the conspiracy had been prepared over a long period of time by im- 
pious men who had gathered together in it and who had committed many 
evil (acts) against the temples and the inhabitants of Egypt, he encamped 
opposite it and surrounded the city with mounds and ditches and won- 
drous walls. As the Nile flood in the eighth year was great and normally 
covered the plains, he restrained it by blocking in many places the 

148 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

mouths of the canals, having spent not a little money on these things; 
and, having stationed cavalry and infantry to guard them, in a short time 
he took the city by force and destroyed all the impious men in it, as Her- 
mes and Horos, the son of Isis and Osiris, dealt with the rebels in these 
same places formerly. Those who had led the rebels in the time of his 
own father and caused [disorder] in the land and desecrated the temples, 
when he arrived at Memphis to avenge his father and his realm, he pun- 
ished all of them fittingly at the time he arrived to perform the rites con- 
nected with his coronation. 

(Since these things are so), with good fortune, it has been resolved by 
the priests of all the temples in the land that [all] honors belonging to 
King Ptolemy, the eternal, beloved of Ptah, god Epiphanes Eucharistos, 
and likewise also those of his parents, the gods Philopatores, and those 
of his grandparents, the gods Euergetes, [and those] of the gods 
Philadelphoi and those of the gods Soteres, shall be increased greatly; 
and they shall set up a statue of King Ptolemy, the eternal, god Epiphanes 
Eucharistos, in each temple in the most prominent [place], which shall 
be called (the image of) Ptolemy the Avenger of Egypt, and beside which 
shall stand the chief god of the temple, and there shall be given to it a 
weapon of victory prepared [in Egyptian] style, and the priests shall per- 
form cult service to these images three times a day and dress them in sa- 
cred apparel and perform all the other ritual acts just as (is done) for the 
other gods in [the native] festivals. 

From "The King and the Temples: The Rosetta Stone." In Stanley M. Burstein, 
The Hellenistic Age from the Battle of lpsos to the Death of Kleopatra VII (Cam- 
bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 130-31. 

In the year 25, on the 21st of Phaophi, in the reign of the king, the lord 
of the land, Ptolemy, the Savior God, the Conqueror, was the day 
whereon I was born. I lived thirteen years in the presence of my father. 
There went forth a command from the king, the lord of the land, the 
Father-loving Sister-loving God, the New Osiris, son of the Sun, Lord of 
Diadems, Ptolemy, that the high office of High Priest of Memphis should 
be conferred upon me, I being then fourteen years old. I set the adorn- 
ment of the serpent-crown upon the head of the king on the day that he 
took possession of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, and performed all the 
customary rites in the chambers, which are appointed for the Thirty 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 149 

Years' Festivals. I was leader in all the secret offices. I gave instruction 
for the consecration of the Horus [the king as divine] at the time of the 
birth of the [Sun-]god [i.e., the spring equinox] in the Golden House. I 
betook me to the residence of the kings of the Ionians [the Greek kings], 
which is on the shore of the Great Sea to the west of Rakoti. The king 
of Upper and Lower Egypt, the Master of two worlds, the Father-loving 
Sister-loving God, the New Osiris, was crowned in his royal palace. He 
proceeded to the temple of Isis, the Lady of Yat-udjat. He offered unto 
her sacrifices many and costly. Riding in his chariot forth from the tem- 
ple of Isis, the king himself caused his chariot to stand still. He wreathed 
my head with a beautiful wreath of gold and all manner of gems, except 
only the royal pectoral, which was on his own breast. I was nominated 
Prophet, and he sent out a royal rescript to the capitals of all the nomes, 

"I have appointed the High Priest of Memphis, Pasherenptah (III), to 
be my Prophet." And there was delivered to me from the temples of 
Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt a yearly revenue for my maintenance. 

The king came to Memphis on a feast-day. He passed up and down in 
his ship that he might behold both sides of the place. So soon as he 
landed at the quarter of the city called Onkhtawy, he went into the tem- 
ple escorted by his magnates and his wives and his royal children, with 
all the things prepared for the feast; sitting in the ship, he sailed up, in 
order to celebrate the feast in honor of all the gods who dwell in Mem- 
phis, according to the greatness of the goodwill in the heart of the lord 
of the land, and the white crown was upon his brow. 

I was a great man, rich in all riches, whereby I possessed a goodly 
harem. I lived forty-three years without any man-child being born to me. 
In which matter the majesty of this glorious god, Imhotep, the son of 
Ptah, was gracious unto me. A man-child was bestowed upon me, who 
was called Imhotep, and was surnamed Petubast. Tayimhotep, the daugh- 
ter of the father of the god, the Prophet of Horus, the lord of Letopolis, 
Kha-hapi, was his mother. 

Under the majesty of the princess, the lady of the land, Kleopatra and 
of her son Kaisar in the year 11, the 15 th of Phamenoth was the day on 
which I was carried into the haven. I was brought to the necropolis, and 
there was performed upon me every rite customary for a well-prepared 
mummy. The laying in the grave took place in the year 12 on the 30th 
of Thoth. The years of my life in all were forty and nine. 

150 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

From "Biographical Inscription of Pasherenptah III, High Priest of Ptah during 
the Reigns of Ptolemy XII and Cleopatra VII." Adapted from the translation of 
S.R.K. Glanville published in E. Bevan, The House of Ptolemy: A History of Egypt 
under the Ptolemaic Dynasty (London: Arnold, 1927), pp. 347^-8. 

[In the reign of Cleop]atra (VII), goddess [Ph]ilopat[or and of P]tole- 
maios, who is also the son of Kaisar, god Philopator, god Philometor, [year 
13, Art]emisios 18, Phamenoth 18. It has been resolved by the priests 
from Diospolis the Great, (priests) of the [greatest god, Amo]nrasonther, 
both the elders and all the others. Kallimakhos, the kinsman, [and 
strategos and] revenue officer for the district of Thebes, and gymnasiarch 
and cavalry-commander, previously having taken over the city, which 
had been ruined [as a result of manifold [disastrous] circumstances, tended 
it carefully and maintained it] unburdened [in] complete peace. More- 
over, he reverently outfitted the sanctuaries of the great ancestral gods, 
and the lives [of those in them he saved]; and, in general, he made a 
]. In addition, he restored everything [to its former] prosperous state 
and strengthened truth and justice. And, indeed, [he displayed] his good- 
ness of heart, and in beneficence those who excel in generosity. And fur- 
ther, now . . . [ the] severe famine caused by a crop-failure like none 
hitherto recorded, and when the city had been almost crushed by [need], 
he, having devoted himself wholeheartedly, voluntarily contributed to 
the salvation of each of the local inhabitants. Having labored [as a fa- 
ther on behalf] of his own fatherland and his legitimate children, with 
the good will of the gods, in continuous abundance of [food] he main- 
tained nearly everyone; and [he kept them] unaware of the circumstance 
from which he furnished the abundance. The famine, however, contin- 
ued in the present year and became even worse and [ ] a failure of 
the flood and misery far worse than ever before reigning throughout the 
whole [land] and the condition of the city being wholly critical . . . and 
all having become weak from want and virtually everyone seeking every- 
thing, but [no one] obtaining it, he, having called upon the greatest god, 
who then stood at his side, [Amonrasonthjer, and having nobly shoul- 
dered by himself the burden again, just as a bright star and a good dai- 
mon, he shone upon [everyone]. For he dedicated his life wholly ... for 
the inhabitants of the district of Thebes, and, having nourished and saved 
everyone together with their wives and children, just as from [a gale and] 
contending winds, he brought them into a safe harbor. But the chief and 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 151 

greatest (indication) [of his piety] (was the fact that), being in charge of 
everything connected with the divine, to the greatest degree possible he 
reverently and sleeplessly took thought [for the sacred rites] so that from 
the time his grandfather, Kallimakhos, the kinsman and epistrategos, [re- 
newed them], the processions of the lord gods and the festivals have been 
held in a most holy and excellent manner just as in [ancient times]. 
(Since these things are so), with good fortune, he shall be addressed as 
savior of the city, which is ancient [ ] on his birthday in important 
places in the sanctuary of the great god, Amonrasonther; [three statues 
of him, one] of hard stone the priests and two, one of bronze and the 
other likewise of hard stone, the city (shall set up); [and every year they 
shall celebrate] this same day as his nameday and offer sacrifice to the 
lord gods and wear wreaths and hold a feast, [just as is customary]; and 
they shall inscribe the decree on a stone stele in both Greek and native 
letters [and set it up on] the floor of the temple so that publicly he shall 
share in the [goodwill] of the greatest god, [Amonrasonther], in order 
that for all time his benefactions shall exist in everlasting memory. 

From "Honorary Decree for Kallimakhos, Governor of the Thebaid, Thebes, March 
39." In Stanley M. Burstein, The Hellenistic Age from the Battle of Ipsos to the Death 
ofKleopatra Vll (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 144-45. 

Religion in Ptolemaic Egypt 

In the multicultural society of Ptolemaic Egypt, one of the areas in 
which Greeks and Egyptians met was religion. The two documents in this 
section illustrate this interaction. The first tells how the cult statue of Sara- 
pis, the patron deity of Alexandria, was discovered and brought to Egypt. 
Although the statue was made by the Greek sculptor Bryaxis in the form 
of a Greek god, Manetho and Timotheos of Athens used an old Egyptian 
literary form — the communication of the god's will directly to Ptolemy I 
in a dream — to authenticate the statue. In the second selection, the an- 
cient Egyptian goddess Isis is reinterpreted as a mother goddess and founder 
of civilization through identification with various Greek goddesses. 

The origin of this God Serapis has not hitherto been made generally 
known by our writers. The Egyptian priests give this account. While 

152 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

Ptolemy, the first Macedonian king who consolidated the power of Egypt, 
was setting up in the newly built city of Alexandria fortifications, tem- 
ples, and rites of worship, there appeared to him in his sleep a youth of 
singular beauty and more than human stature, who counseled the 
monarch to send his most trusty friends to Pontus, and fetch his effigy 
from that country. This, he said, would bring prosperity to the realm, and 
great and illustrious would be the city which gave it a reception. At the 
same moment he saw the youth ascend to heaven in a blaze of fire. 
Roused by so significant and strange an appearance, Ptolemy disclosed 
the vision of the night to the Egyptian priests, whose business it is to un- 
derstand such matters. As they knew but little of Pontus or of foreign 
countries, he enquired of Timotheus, an Athenian, one of the family of 
the Eumolpids, whom he had invited from Eleusis to preside over the sa- 
cred rites, what this worship was, and who was the deity. Timotheus, ques- 
tioning persons who had found their way to Pontus, learnt that there was 
there a city Sinope, and near it a temple, which, according to an old tra- 
dition of the neighborhood, was sacred to the infernal Jupiter, for there 
also stood close at hand a female figure, to which many gave the name 
of Proserpine. Ptolemy, however, with the true disposition of a despot, 
though prone to alarm, was, when the feeling of security returned, more 
intent on pleasures than on religious matters; and he began by degrees 
to neglect the affair, and to turn his thoughts to other concerns, till at 
length the same apparition, but now more terrible and peremptory, de- 
nounced ruin against the king and his realm, unless his bidding were per- 
formed. Ptolemy then gave directions that an embassy should be 
dispatched with presents to king Scydrothemis, who at that time ruled 
the people of Sinope, and instructed them, when they were on the point 
of sailing, to consult the Pythian Apollo. Their voyage was prosperous, 
and the response of the oracle was clear. The God bade them go and 
carry back with them the image of his father, but leave that of his sister 

On their arrival at Sinope, they delivered to Scydrothemis the pres- 
ents from their king, with his request and message. He wavered in pur- 
pose, dreading at one moment the anger of the God, terrified at another 
by the threats and opposition of the people. Often he was wrought upon 
by the gifts and promises of the ambassadors. And so three years passed 
away, while Ptolemy did not cease to urge his zealous solicitations. He 
continued to increase the dignity of his embassies, the number of his 

Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 153 

ships, and the weight of his gold. A terrible vision then appeared to Scy- 
drothemis, warning him to thwart no longer the purposes of the God. As 
he yet hesitated, various disasters, pestilence, and the unmistakable anger 
of heaven, which grew heavier from day to day, continued to harass him. 
He summoned an assembly, and explained to them the bidding of the 
God, the visions of Ptolemy and himself, and the miseries that were gath- 
ering about them. The people turned away angrily from their king, were 
jealous of Egypt, and, fearing for themselves, thronged around the tem- 
ple. The story becomes at this point more marvelous, and relates that the 
God of his own will conveyed himself on board the fleet, which had been 
brought close to shore, and, wonderful to say, vast as was the extent of 
sea that they traversed, they arrived at Alexandria on the third day. A 
temple, proportioned to the grandeur of the city, was erected in a place 
called Rhacotis, where there had stood a chapel consecrated in old times 
to Serapis and Isis. Such is the most popular account of the origin and 
introduction of the God Serapis. I am aware indeed that there are some 
who say that he was brought from Seleucia, a city of Syria, in the reign 
of Ptolemy III, while others assert that it was the act of the same king, 
but that the place from which he was brought was Memphis, once a fa- 
mous city and the strength of ancient Egypt. The God himself, because 
he heals the sick, many identified him with Aesculapius; others with 
Osiris, the deity of the highest antiquity among these nations; not a few 
with Jupiter, as being supreme ruler of all things; but most people with 
Pluto, arguing from the emblems which may be seen on his statues, or 
from conjectures of their own. 

From Tacitus, "The Origin of Sarapis," Histories, 4.83-84- In The Complete Works 
of Tacitus, trans. John Church and William Jackson Brodribb (New York: Ran- 
dom House, 1942), pp. 653-55. 

Demetrios, the son of Artemidoros, who is also called Thraseas, a Mag- 
nesian from Magnesia on the Maeander, an offering in fulfillment of a 
vow to Isis. He transcribed the following from the stele in Memphis 
which stands by the temple of Hephaistos: 

I am Isis, the tyrant of every land; and I was educated by Hermes, 
and together with Hermes I invented letters, both the hieroglyphic 
and the demotic, in order that the same script should not be used 

154 Primary Documents Concerning Cleopatra VII 

to write everything. I imposed laws on men, and the laws which I 
laid down no one may change. I am the eldest daughter of Kronos. 
I am the wife and sister of King Osiris. I am she who discovered the 
cultivation of grain for men. I am the mother of King Horos. I am 
she who rises in the Dog Star. I am she who is called goddess by 
women. By me the city of Bubastis was built. I separated earth from 
sky. I designated the paths of the stars. The sun and the moon's 
course I laid out. I invented navigation. I caused the just to be strong. 
Woman and man I brought together. For woman I determined that 
in the tenth month she shall deliver a baby into the light. I ordained 
that parents be cherished by their children. For parents who are cru- 
elly treated I imposed retribution. Together with my brother Osiris 
I stopped cannibalism. I revealed initiations to men. I taught men 
to honor the images of the gods. I established precincts for the gods. 
The governments of tyrants I suppressed. I stopped murders. I com- 
pelled women to be loved by men. I caused the just to be stronger 
than gold and silver. I ordained that the true be considered beauti- 
ful. I invented marriage contracts. Languages I assigned to Greeks 
and barbarians. I caused the honorable and the shameful to be dis- 
tinguished by Nature. I caused nothing to be more fearful than an 
oath. He who unjustly plotted against others I gave into the hands 
of his victim. On those who commit unjust acts I imposed retribu- 
tion. I ordained that suppliants be pitied. I honor those who justly 
defend themselves. With me the just prevails. Of rivers and winds 
and the sea am I mistress. No one becomes famous without my 
knowledge. I am the mistress of war. Of the thunderbolt am I mis- 
tress. I calm and stir up the sea. I am in the rays of the sun. I sit be- 
side the course of the sun. Whatever I decide, this also is 
accomplished. For me everything is right. I free those who are in 
bonds. I am the mistress of sailing. The navigable I make unnaviga- 
ble whenever I choose. I established the boundaries of cities. I am 
she who is called Lawgiver. The island from the depths I brought up 
into the light. I conquer Fate. Fate heeds me. Hail Egypt who reared 

From "The Praises of Isis, Mistress of the Universe and Creator of Civilization." 
In Stanley M. Burstein, The Hellenistic Age from the Battle of Ipsos to the Death of 
Kleopatra VII (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 147. 

Appendix: The 

Ptolemy I Soter 

305-282 b.c.e, 

Ptolemy II Philadelphos 

282-246 b.c.e, 

Ptolemy III Euergetes 

246-222 b.c.e, 

Ptolemy IV Philopator 

222-205 b.c.e, 

Ptolemy V Epiphanes 

205-180 b.c.e, 

Ptolemy VI Philometor 

180-145 b.c.e, 

Ptolemy VII Neos Philopator 

145-144 b.c.e, 

Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II 

145-116 b.c.e, 

Cleopatra III and Ptolemy IX Soter II 

116-107 B.C.E, 

Cleopatra III and Ptolemy X Alexander I 

107-101 B.C.E, 

Ptolemy X Alexander I and Cleopatra Berenike 

101-88 B.C.E. 

Ptolemy IX Soter II 

88-81 b.c.e. 

Cleopatra Berenike and Ptolemy XI Alexander II 

80 B.C.E. 

Ptolemy XII Theos Philopator Philadelphos Neos 


80-58 b.c.e. 

Cleopatra V Tryphaina and Berenike IV 

58-57 b.c.e. 

Berenike IV 

57-55 b.c.e. 

Ptolemy XII 

55-51 b.c.e. 

Cleopatra VII and Ptolemy XIII 

51-47 b.c.e. 

Cleopatra VII and Ptolemy XIV 

47-44 b.c.e. 

Cleopatra VII and Ptolemy XV (Caesarion) 

44-30 b.c.e. 

Glossary of 
Selected Terms 

Agathos Daimon: The "good daimon"; the patron god of Alexandria, 
who was identified with Shay, the Egyptian god of Fate. 

Amenophis: Greek name for the eighteenth dynasty Egyptian king 
Amenhotep III, who reigned from 1390 to 1352 b.c.e. 

Amonrasonther: Greek rendering of Amon-Re, king of the gods, the 
chief god of Thebes. 

Amphora: A large thick-walled ceramic storage jar, usually with a sharply 
tapering base. Used to store or transport liquid or dry staples such 
as wine, olive oil, and grain. 

Aroura: In Egypt, a measure of land equal to about % of an acre. 

Artaba: An Egyptian grain measure equal to about 40 choinikes — i.e., 
scoopfuls — or about 39 quarts. 

Artemisios: Seventh month of the Macedonian calendar, equivalent 
to March. In the late Ptolemaic period, the Macedonian and 
Egyptian calendars were synchronized, so they both began in Oc- 

Athlophoros: "Prize-bearer"; title of the deified Berenike II, the wife of 
Ptolemy III. 

158 Glossary of Selected Terms 

Bocchoris: Greek name for the Egyptian king Bakenrenef, the sole king 
of the twenty- fourth dynasty. He reigned from 720 to 715 b.c.e. 

Choinix: An Egyptian grain measure equal to approximately Vm of a 

Chrematistai: A three-judge panel that formed an itinerant court open 
to Greeks and Egyptians. They judged cases in which issues were 
framed in Greek. 

Cleruchy: A cleruch was an immigrant soldier, who received as part of 
his pay a conditional grant of land called a cleruchy. Originally 
cleruchies were held for as long as the soldiers performed military 
service and then returned to the government for reassignment. By 
Cleopatra's time, however, they had become hereditary and were 
treated as essentially the property of the cleruch and his family. 

Dekanos: Title of an officer in charge of a group of ten men. It could 
be used as a general title as well as for the heads of groups of ten 
employed in various functions, such as police. 

Dioiketes: Chief financial officer and head of the administration. 

Dionysos: Greek god of wine and intoxication identified with the Egypt- 
ian god Osiris. Also within his sphere were the theater and related 
activities, ritual ecstasy, and the afterlife. 

Diospolis the Great: "The great city of Zeus"; Greek name for the Egypt- 
ian city of Thebes. Its name derived from the identification of 
Amon, the chief god of Thebes, with Zeus. 

Drachma: A standard of weight as well as a coin. There were six obols 
to a drachma, sixty drachmas to a mina, and sixty minas to a tal- 
ent. The weight and value of a drachma varied widely in the Hel- 
lenistic period. 

Ephebe: A year of mandatory service for Greek boys in their late teens 
that marked their transition to adult-citizen status. At Alexandria, 

Glossary of Selected Terms 159 

the ephebate was primarily devoted to education and connected to 
membership in the gymnasia. Completion of the ephebate was re- 
quired of all Alexandrian citizens. 

Epiphanes: "Manifest"; royal cult title that refers to the manifestation 
in the person of the king of either divine traits or a new divinity. 

Epistrategos: Originally a high-level military officer. In the late Ptole- 
maic period, it was the title of the governor of the Thebaid — the 
seven southernmost nomes of Upper Egypt — and one of the 
highest-ranking officials in Egypt. 

Eucharistos: "Gracious"; cult title of Ptolemy V. 

Euergetes: Royal cult epithet meaning "benefactor" that was borne by 
Ptolemy III and Ptolemy VIII. 

Girdlewearers: Greeks and Macedonians. 

Hasmoneans: Jewish priestly and royal family that traced its origin to 
Matthias, who began the rebellion against Seleukid rule in Judaea 
in 167 b.c.e. Ruled Judaea until 63 b.c.e. and continued to be 
prominent in Jewish affairs until the early 30s b.c.e. 

Kanephoros: "Basket bearer"; title of the priestess of the deified Arsinoe 

Katoche: "Detention"; Katoche refers to the situation of individuals who 
believed that they were required to live within the precincts of the 
Temple of Sarapis at Memphis by order of the god. 

Kinsman: Title of honor borne by Ptolemaic officials. It was the highest 
rank at the Ptolemaic court. 

Komarch: Village headman. The komarch was in charge of the civil ad- 
ministration of a village. 

Laokritai: Egyptian judges who administered Egyptian law in Egyptian. 

160 Glossary of Selected Terms 

Machimoi: Members of the native Egyptian military caste. 

Mecheir: Sixth month of the Egyptian calendar, equivalent to February 
in the late Ptolemaic period. 

Mesore: Twelfth month of the Egyptian calendary, equivalent to June- 
July in the Ptolemaic period. 

Mnevis: A sacred bull like Apis and Buchis. Mnevis was believed to be 
the son and representative on earth of the sun god Re of Heliopo- 
lis (city of the sun) in the northeastern Delta. 

Nomarch: Administrative official in charge of the agricultural produc- 
tion of a nome. 

Nome: One of the administrative districts that formed the basis of the or- 
ganization of Egypt in the pharaonic and Ptolemaic periods. In the 
pharaonic period, there were usually forty-two nomes. In the Ptole- 
maic period, the number of nomes varied from thirty-six to forty. 

Pachon: Ninth month of the Egyptian calendar, equivalent to May in 
the late Ptolemaic period. 

Paralogeia: Additional taxes collected without official authorization. 

Phamenoth: Seventh month of the Egyptian calendar, equivalent to 
March in the late Ptolemaic period. 

Phaophi: Second month of the Egyptian calendar, equivalent to Octo- 
ber in the late Ptolemaic period. 

Pharmouthi: Eighth month of the Egyptian calendar, equivalent to April 
in the late Ptolemaic period. 

Philometor: "Mother loving god"; royal cult title of Ptolemy VI. 

Philopator: "Father loving god"; royal cult title of Ptolemy IV, Ptolemy 
XII, and Cleopatra VII. 

Glossary of Selected Terms 161 

Polis: "City"; in Greece, the polis was the principal form of socio- 
political organization. A polis was a self-governing civic community 
and consisted of a central city or town and its surrounding rural ter- 
ritory. There were only three poleis in Egypt: Alexandria, Naukratis, 
and Ptolemais. 

Ptah: Ancient creator god of Memphis. Ptah's primary association was 
with craftsmen, and he was identified for that reason with the Greek 
god Hephaistos. 

Satrapy: Term for one of the twenty provinces into which the Persian 
Empire was divided. Governors were called satraps. The system was 
retained by Alexander the Great and his successors. 

Sitologoi: Managers of royal granaries in a nome. 

Stade: A Greek measure of distance. There were eight stades in a mile. 

Strategos: "General"; in Ptolemaic Egypt, strategoi replaced nomarchs as 
the governors of nomes. 

Talent: A Greek weight or amount of money. A talent was equal to 
six thousand drachmas or sixty minas. The weight of a talent 
varied from 57 pounds to 83 pounds depending on the standard 

Thebaid: A subdivision of Upper Egypt consisting of the seven south- 
ernmost nomes from Thebes to the First Cataract at Syene, mod- 
ern Aswan. 

Thoth: Egyptian god of writing and knowledge. In the Ptolemaic period, 
Thoth was usually identified with the Greek god Hermes. 

Thyrsos: A staff topped with a pine cone and decorated with fillets that 
was used by celebrants in the cult of the Greek god Dionysos. 

Toga virilis: A man's toga, which a Roman boy assumed at his coming 
of age ceremony on his seventeenth birthday. 

162 Glossary of Selected Terms 

Toparchy: Administrative subdivision; a nome consisted of several vil- 
lages. Its administrator was a toparch. 

Typhonians: The followers of the Greek mythical monster Typhon, who 
was identified with Seth — the brother and enemy of Osiris and god 
of the desert, foreigners, and evil. 



1. For the details of the case, see the work of the German historian Werner 
Huss, "Die Herkunft des Cleopatra Philopator," Aegyptus 70 (1990): 191-203. 
The core of the argument is threefold: (1) Strabo's evidence that Cleopatra was 
illegitimate — that is, that her mother was neither a Macedonian nor a Greek; 
(2) only "marriage" with an Egyptian family of the highest rank such as that of 
the high priests of Ptah would be suitable; and (3) marriage connections be- 
tween the Ptolemies and this family are already attested in the late second cen- 
tury B.C.E. 

2. H. W. Fairman, ed., "The Hieroglyphic Inscriptions," in Sir Robert Mond 
and Oliver H. Myers, The Bucheum, vol. 2, The Inscriptions (London: The Egypt 
Exploration Society, 1934), n. 13. 

3. Alexandrian War, p. 33. 

4. For the chronology of Cleopatra's visits to Rome, I follow the reconstruc- 
tion of Erich Gruen, "Cleopatra in Rome: Facts and Fantasies," in Myth, His' 
tory, and Culture in Republican Rome, ed. D. Braund and C. Gill (Exeter, 2003), 
pp. 257-74. 

5. The Jewish author of the third book of the Sybilline Oracles, writing prob- 
ably before the Battle of Actium, predicts that a widowed queen of Egypt, who 
can only be Cleopatra VII, will destroy Rome, The Sibylline Oracles, book 3, lines 
46-93, in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charles Worth, vol. 
1 (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1983), pp. 363-64- 


1. P. Van Minnen, "An Official Act of Cleopatra," Ancient Society 30 (2000): 

164 Notes 

2. The story is conveniently told in Naphtali Lewis, Greeks in Ptolemaic Egypt 
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 104-5. 

3. Appian, Roman History, preface, p. 10. 


1. Theokritos, Idyll 14, line 58. 

2. Theokritos, Idyll 15, lines 47-48. 

3. Gideon Bohak, "CPJ III 520: The Egyptian Reaction to Onias' Temple," 
journal for the Study of Judaism 26 (1995): 34. 

4. The Prophecy of the Lamb is translated in William K. Simpson, R. O. 
Faulkner, E. F. Wente Jr., and Robert Ritner, eds., The Literature of Ancient Egypt, 
3rd ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), pp. 445-49. 

5. "Greek status" raised Jews above Egyptians but it did not make them cit- 
izens of Alexandria and the other two Greek cities as can be seen from the fact 
that Cleopatra excluded them from an emergency distribution of grain during a 
famine (Josephos, Against Apion 2.56) in accordance with the traditional Greek 
principle that only citizens had the right to a share of the city's resources. 


1 . It was supposed to be a fortress that defended Egypt by means of a huge 
mirror that detected enemy ships while they were still at sea, Chau Ju'Kua: His 
Work on the Chinese and Arab Trade in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries, enti- 
tled Chu-fan-chi, trans. Friedrich Hirth and W. W. Rockhill (St. Petersburg, 
1911), p. 146. 

2. Polybius, Histories, 15.33.10. 


1. Livy, Roman History 38.17. 

2. Cassius Dio, Roman History 51.16.5. 

3. Propertius, Elegies 3, ed. and trans. G. P. Goold (Cambridge, MA: Har- 
vard University Press, 1990), lines 39-42 and 47-49. 

4- Cassius Dio, Roman History 51.19.4. 

5. Anonymous, Liber de Viris Illustribus 86. This brief entry is the only bi- 
ography of Cleopatra to survive from antiquity. 

6. Grace Harriet Macurdy, Hellenistic Queens: A Study of Woman-Power in 

Notes 165 

Macedonia, Seleucid Syria, and Ptolemaic Eg)>pt (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Uni- 
versity Press, 1932), p. 185. 

7. The African American case for Cleopatra being black was first made in 
J. A. Rogers, World's Great Men of Color, vol. 1 (New York: Collier Books, 1946), 

8. The use of Cleopatra in contemporary African American popular culture 
is discussed by Shelley P. Haley, "Black Feminist Thought and Classics: Re- 
membering, Re-claiming, Re-empowering," in Feminist Theory and the Classics, 
ed. Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz and Amy Richlin (New York: Routledge, 1993), 
pp. 28-31; and Fancesca T Royster, Becoming Cleopatra: The Shifting Image of an 
Icon (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003). 

9. The fullest discussion is in Mary Lefkowitz, Not Out of Africa: How Afro- 
centrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History, 2nd ed. (New York: Basic 
Books, 1997), pp. 34-52. 

10. It is stated as a fact in the most recently published history of Ptolemaic 
Egypt in English. Gunther Holbl, A History of the Ptolemaic Empire, trans. Tina 
Saavedra (London: Routledge, 2001), p. 223. 

11. Haley, 28. 



Alexandria and Alexandrianism. Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996. An exten- 
sively illustrated collection of essays dealing with the culture and legacy 
of Alexandria. 

Agatharchides of Cnidus. On the Erythraean Sea. Edited and translated by Stan- 
ley M. Burstein. London: Hakluyt Society, 1989. A fully annotated trans- 
lation of the principal source for Ptolemaic exploration and activity in 
Nubia and the Red Sea basin. 

Arnold, Dieter. Temples of the Last Pharaohs. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. 
A detailed survey and analysis of temple building in Egypt during the first 
millennium b.c.e. The work is particularly valuable for its discussion of 
temples built by the Ptolemies and their immediate predecessors but no 
longer extant. 

Ashton, Sally- Ann. The Last Queens of Egypt. London: Pearson Education, Ltd., 
2003. A lucid study of the representation of late Ptolemaic queens in con- 
temporary Greek and Egyptian art. 

Bagnall, Roger S. Reading Papyri, Writing Ancient History. London: Routledge, 1995. 
A brief introduction to the use of papyrological evidence for analyzing the 
social and economic history of Greco-Roman history. 

Bagnall, Roger S., and Peter Derow, eds. The Hellenistic Age: Historical Sources 
in Translation. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. An extensive source- 
book containing numerous papyrological texts illustrating the administra- 
tive and social history of Ptolemaic Egypt. 

Bell, Idris H. Cults and Creeds in GraecO'Roman Egypt. Liverpool: Liverpool Uni- 
versity Press, 1957. Four essays treating Greek, Egyptian, and Jewish reli- 

168 Annotated Bibliography 

gious interaction as illuminated by papyri and its significance for the de- 
velopment of Christianity in Egypt. 

Bevan, Edwyn. The House of Ptolemy: A History of Egypt under the Ptolemaic Dy- 
nasty. London: Arnold, 1927. An old but still valuable history of Ptole- 
maic Egypt. Although strong on political and military history, the work is 
weak on social history and the Egyptian context of Ptolemaic history. 

Bilde, Per, et al., eds. Ethnicity in Hellenistic Egypt. Aarhus: Aarhus University 
Press, 1992. A valuable collection of essays by European scholars on the 
varied responses of Greeks, Jews, and Egyptians to the development of a 
multicultural society in Ptolemaic Egypt. 

Blum, Rudolf. Kallimachos: The Alexandrian Library and the Origins of Bibliogra- 
phy. Translated by Hans H. Wellisch. Madison: University of Wisconsin 
Press, 1991. A detailed technical study of Kallimachos' bibliographical 
work and its significance for the development of literary scholarship at the 
Alexandrian library. 

Bowman, Alan K. Egypt after the Pharaohs: 332 BC-AD 642: From Alexander to 
the Arab Conquest. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California 
Press, 1986. A social and cultural history of Egypt from Alexander to the 
Arab conquest based on papyrological evidence. 

Burstein, Stanley M. The Hellenistic Age from the Battle of Ipsos to the Death of 
Kleopatra VII. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985. A general 
sourcebook for Hellenistic history emphasizing epigraphical texts. 

Canfora, Luciano. The Vanished Library: A Wonder of the Ancient World. Trans- 
lated by Martin Ryle. London: Hutchinson Radius, 1989. An imaginative 
reconstruction of the history of the Alexandrian library with a valuable 
discussion of the literary sources for the library and its contents. 

Casson, Lionel. Libraries in the Ancient World. New Haven: Yale University Press, 
2001. A comprehensive history of ancient libraries, particularly valuable 
for its treatment of the archaeological evidence. 

Chauveau, Michel. Cleopatra: Beyond the Myth. Translated by David Lorton. 
Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002. A revisionist study of Cleopatra by 
a leading French Egyptologist aiming to consider the evidence of the 
sources independent of the popular tradition concerning the queen as a 
sexual predator. 

. Egypt in the Age of Cleopatra: History and Society under the Ptolemies. 

Translated by David Lorton. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997. A 

Annotated Bibliography 169 

brief but valuable survey of the society and culture of Ptolemaic Egypt em- 
phasizing the Egyptian evidence. 

. Cleopatra's Eg^pt: Age of the Ptolemies. Brooklyn: The Brooklyn Mu- 

seum, 1988. The catalogue of the first major exhibit of the art of Egypt in 
the age of Cleopatra. It contains an important series of essays on the reli- 
gious and artistic history of the period. 

Crawford, Dorothy J. Kerkeosiris: An Egyptian Village in the Ptolemaic Period. Cam- 
bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971. A vivid and detailed recon- 
struction of life in an Egyptian village based on papyrological evidence. 

Empereur, Jean- Yves. Alexandria Rediscovered. New York: George Braziler Pub- 
lisher, 1998. An extensively illustrated survey of recent archaeological dis- 
coveries in Alexandria, with particular emphasis on the results of the 
underwater excavations in Alexandria harbor. 

Fraser, P. M. Ptolemaic Alexandria. Oxford: Oxford University Press. A massive 
survey of all that is known about the social and cultural history Ptole- 
maic Alexandria, marred only by its lack of any systematic treatment of 
the Egyptian aspects of the city's life. The second volume contains a 
comprehensive account of the classical evidence for the history of the 

Gaddio, Franck, et al. Alexandria: The Submerged Royal Quarters. London: 
Periplus, 1998. A lavishly illustrated scholarly publication and analysis of 
the historical significance of underwater archaeological discoveries in 
Alexandria harbor. 

Goudriaan, Koen. Ethnicity in Ptolemaic Eg^pt. Amsterdam: J. C. Gieben, 1988. 
A detailed collection and analysis of the evidence concerning ethnic iden- 
tification in Ptolemaic Egypt that concludes that no single definition of 
"Greek" is possible. 

Grant, Michael. Cleopatra. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, Ltd., 1972. 
Thoroughly documented biography by a prominent Roman historian. Suc- 
cessfully integrates Cleopatra's life into the history of the Roman civil wars 
without treating her reign as merely an episode in Roman history. 

Green, Peter. Alexander to Actmm: The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age. 
Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990. The stan- 
dard comprehensive history of the Hellenistic period in English. 

Hallett, Lucy Hughes. Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams and Distortions. New York: 
Harper and Row, 1990. Pioneering study of the treatment of Cleopatra in 

170 Annotated Bibliography 

Western culture. The discussion of Cleopatra in nineteenth- and twentieth- 
century popular culture is particularly good. 

Hammer, Mary. Signs of Cleopatra: History, Politics, Representation. London: Rout- 
ledge, 1993. Like Hallett, Hammer surveys the treatment of Cleopatra in 
Western culture from antiquity to the present, but with particular emphasis 
on her representation in European painting. 

Holbl, Gunther. A History of the Ptolemaic Empire. Translated by Tina Saavedra. 
London: Routledge, 2001. Standard contemporary history of Ptolemaic 
Egypt. Particularly notable is the extensive use of native Egyptian sources. 

Huzar, Eleanor Goltz. Mark Antony: A Biography. Beckenham: Croom Helm, Ltd., 
1978. The standard biography of Mark Antony. Particularly useful for its 
full treatment of Antony's career before his involvement with Cleopatra. 

Irby-Massie, Georgia L., and Paul T Keyser. Greek Science of the Hellenistic Pe- 
riod: A Sourcebook. London: Routledge, 2002. Valuable collection of pri- 
mary sources dealing with the full range of Hellenistic science. Detailed 
introductions and headnotes put the translated texts into their historical 

Lewis, Naphtali. Greeks in Ptolemaic Egypt: Case Studies in the Social History of 
the Hellenistic World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986. Chrono- 
logically arranged biographical sketches based on papyrological evidence 
of eight typical immigrant Greeks. The book provides an illuminating in- 
sight into the range of social and economic roles available to immigrants 
and their descendants in Ptolemaic Egypt. 

. Papyrus in Classical Antiquity. London: Oxford University Press, 1974. 

Valuable account of the preparation and use of papyrus. The book pro- 
vides a case study of how one of the most important monopolies in Ptole- 
maic Egypt functioned. 

Macurdy, Grace Harriet. Hellenistic Queens: A Study of Woman-Power in Mace- 
donia, Seleucid Syria, and Ptolemaic Egypt. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Uni- 
versity Press, 1932. A pioneering study by a feminist historian of the role 
of queens in the Hellenistic period, with particular emphasis on their po- 
litical influence. 

Meier, Christian. Caesar: A Biography. New York: Basic Books, 1982. A detailed 
biography of Julius Caesar by a leading historian of the Roman republic. 

Modrzejewski, Joseph Meleze. The Jews of Eg^pt: From Ramses 11 to Emperor 
Hadrian. Translated by Robert Cornman. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication 

Annotated Bibliography 111 

Society, 1995. Detailed study of the position of Jews in Egypt from the late 
second millennium b.c.e. to the second century c.e. Particularly valuable 
for its thorough treatment of the interaction between Judaism and Greek 
culture in Egypt. 

Murray, William M., and Photios M Petsas. Octavian's Campsite Memorial for the 
Action War in Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. Vol. 79, part 
4. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1989. Lucid and detailed 
analysis of the archaeological evidence for the monument built by Au- 
gustus to commemorate the Battle of Actium. 

Pomeroy, Sarah B. Women in Hellenistic Egypt: From Alexander to Cleopatra. 2nd 
ed. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1990. The author uses papyro- 
logical evidence to reconstruct the social and economic life of Greek 
women in Ptolemaic Egypt. She argues that activist queens like Cleopatra 
VII inspired the relative freedom illustrated by the lives of these women. 

Richardson, Peter. Herod: King of the Jews and Friend of the Romans. Columbia, 
S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1996. Detailed biography of 
Herod, with particular attention to his relations to Rome. 

Roller, Duane W The World of Juba 11 and Kleopatra Selene: Royal Scholarship On 
Rome's African Frontier. London: Routledge, 2003. Pioneering reconstruc- 
tion of the history and culture of Mauretania in the late first century b.c.e. 
and early first century c.e. 

Royster, Francesca T. Becoming Cleopatra: The Shifting Image of an Icon. New 
York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Postmodern study of the image of 
Cleopatra in twentieth-century-American popular culture. Particularly 
valuable for its analysis of the significance of Cleopatra as a symbol in 
African American cinema. 

Sly, Dorothy. Philo's Alexandria. London: Routledge, 1996. Analysis of the rep- 
resentation of Alexandria in the works of the first-century c.e. Jewish 
philosopher Philo. 

Solmsen, Friedrich. Isis among the Greeks and Romans. Cambridge, MA: Harvard 
University Press, 1979. Study of the transformation of Isis into an essen- 
tially Greek goddess outside Egypt. 

Southern, Pat. Augustus. London: Routledge, 1998. Detailed political biography 
of the emperor Augustus based on the most recent scholarship. 

. Cleopatra. Charleston, S.C.: Tempus Publishing Co., 1999. Political biog- 

raphy of Cleopatra VII, with particular emphasis on her relations with Rome. 

172 Annotated Bibliography 

Stambaugh, John E. Sarapis under the Early Ptolemies. Leiden: Brill, 1972. Lucid 
account of the origin and early history of the cult of Sarapis. The author 
demonstrates that the spread of Sarapis outside Egypt was not promoted 
by the Ptolemies. 

Thompson, Dorothy J. Memphis Under the Ptolemies. Princeton: Princeton Uni- 
versity Press, 1988. A remarkable study of the ancient Egyptian capital. 
The author uses Greek and Egyptian papyri to reconstruct in detail the so- 
cial and cultural life of the second city of Ptolemaic Egypt. 

Volkmann, Hans. Cleopatra: A Study in Politics and Propaganda. Translated by 
T. J. Cadoux. New York: Sagamore Press, Inc., 1958. Standard scholarly 
biography of Cleopatra by a leading historian of Ptolemaic Egypt. 

Walker, Susan, and Peter Higgs, eds. Cleopatra of Egypt: From History to Myth. 
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001. Lavishly illustrated catalogue 
of a major exhibition of representations of Cleopatra VII in European art. 
The volume includes a valuable series of essays on the image of Cleopa- 
tra from antiquity to the present. 

Weigall, Arthur. The Life and Times of Cleopatra Queen of Egypt: A Study in the 
Origin of the Roman Empire. London: Putnam's Sons, 1924. A landmark 
book by a major early-twentieth-century Egyptologist. This work was the 
first study to treat Cleopatra primarily as a political figure instead of a sex- 
ual predator. 

Whitehorne, John. Cleopatras. London: Routledge, 1994. A well-documented se- 
ries of brief biographies of all the Ptolemaic queens named Cleopatra ex- 
cept Cleopatra VII. 

Witt, R. E. Isis in the Graeco-Roman World. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 
1971. Detailed study of the cult of Isis in Greek and Roman culture. The 
author treats the cult of Isis more as a forerunner than a rival to early 

Web Sites 

The internet contains a multitude of sites related to ancient history. There are 
two excellent sites dealing with Ptolemaic Egypt. 

The House of Ptolemy. A large well-organized site containing links both to the 
individual Ptolemaic rulers and to primary and secondary sources relevant 
to Ptolemaic history, 

Annotated Bibliography 173 

Cleopatra on the Web. A comprehensive and well-organized site devoted en- 
tirely to the history and legacy of Cleopatra. http://www.isidore-of- 


Antony and Cleopatra: Passion for Power. A&E Home Video. New York, 2002 
(100 minutes). A beautifully photographed film emphasizing the relation- 
ship between Cleopatra and Antony. It includes extensive commentary by 
leading contemporary Roman historians. 

Cleopatra (special edition). Twentieth Century Fox Home Video. Beverly Hills 
(248 minutes). Digitally remastered version of the 1963 film, together with 
extensive documentary material on its production and promotion. 

Cleopatra: Destiny's Queen. Biography. A&E Home Video. New York, 1994 (50 
minutes). A video biography of Cleopatra VII. It contains excellent visu- 
als of Egypt and interesting commentary by contemporary Roman histori- 
ans and Egyptologists. Unfortunately, it is also marred by numerous factual 
errors in the narrative. 

Cleopatra's Palace: In Search of a Legend. Discovery Communications, Inc. Silver 
Springs, MD, 1999 (50 minutes). A well-produced popular documentary 
on the underwater excavations in Alexandria harbor. The film contains 
interesting visuals about the discoveries made on the sunken island of An- 
tirrhodos, but makes little effort to explain the nature of underwater ar- 
chaeology, emphasizing instead the search for objects and the "palace of 


Achillas, 94-97, 101 

Actium, battle of, 30-31, 67, 118- 

121, 133-134 
Agrippa, Marcus, 30, 133 
Alexander Helios (the Sun), 25, 28, 

29, 115 
Alexander III, 2, 4, 46, 49, 53, 58, 

71-72, 87, 141-142 
Alexander IV, 3 
Alexander Romance, 58 
Alexandria, 28-29, 31, 50, 142, 

152-153; as city, 54-55, 99- 

101; description of, 141-142; 

foundation of, 53; population 

of, 53-54 
Alexandrian War, 19, 95-97, 99- 

Amasis, 45 
Amon, 48, 150-151 
Antigonos the One -Eyed, 2-3 
Antioch, 25 
Antiochos I, 5, 88 
Antiochos II, 5, 88 
Antiochos III, and Koile Syria, 9; 

and Ptolemy IV, 8; and Se- 

leukid power, 8 
Antony, Mark, 23-31; and Battle of 

Actium, 30-31; children of, 

25,73-74,83-84, 112, 116, 
128; and Cleopatra VII, 23-31, 
105-131; conquest of Armenia, 
28; descendants of, 131-132; 
and Egypt, 23-25, 73; family 
of, 72-73; and Herod the 
Great, 26, 79-80; and Julius 
Caesar, 23, 73; life of, 72-74, 
105-130; marriages of, 25, 28, 
83-84, 111; and Octavian, 27- 
28, 73, 110-111, 115-116, 133; 
and Parthia, 24; Parthian expe- 
dition, 25, 27, 112-113; and 
Plutarch, 86; and Second Tri- 
umvirate, 23-24; suicide of, 31, 
125-126; territories of, 24-25, 
73, 111, 119; will of, 29, 117 

Aphrodite, 23, 51 

Apis, 49, 137 

Apollonios of Rhodes, 57 

Aristoboulos, 57 

Armenia, 27, 29; conquest of, 113; 
king of, 28, 31, 112, 113 

Arsinoe II, 5, 74-75; marriage of, 5 

Arsinoe IV (sister of Cleopatra 
VII), 19, 21, 24, 75-76, 97, 
101, 105 

Asklepios, 51, 91, 153 



Asoka, 7 
Athena, 51 
Athens, 5-6, 88, 116 
Augustus, 85. See also Octavian 
Aulus Gabinius, 14, 75 

Babylon, 2 

Baktria, kingdom of, 6 

Bara, Theda, 68 

Berenike (sister of Ptolemy III), 6 

Berenike IV (daughter of Ptolemy 

XII), 13-14, 75-76 
Bible, 57-58 

Boccaccio, Giovanni, 68 
Bocchoris, 145 
Brutus, 21-23 
Buchis, 15-16 

Caesar (Augustus). See Octavian 

Caesarion, 20, 21, 25, 29, 31-32, 
99, 115, 128 

Cape Naulochus, battle of, 27 

Cascellius, Quintus, 33-34, 138 

Cassius, 21-23, 79 

Cassius Dio, 66 

Chaucer, Geoffrey, The Legend of 
Good Women, 68 

Chrematistai, 138 

Chremonidean War, 6, 88 

Cilicia, 26 

Cleopatra, daughter of Kandake, 69 

Cleopatra I, 9 

Cleopatra Jones, 69 

Cleopatra Selene (the Moon), 25, 
29, 32, 76-78, 131 

Cleopatra Thea, 26, 78-79 

Cleopatra V Tryphaina, 11, 13, 75 

Cleopatra VII, and African Ameri- 
cans, 69; and Alexandrian 
Greeks, 16; and ancestors, 26, 
89; and Arsinoe II, 75; and 

Battle of Actium, 30-31; biog- 
raphy of, 68; and children, 20, 
25,31-32, 76-77, 112, 128; 
and Cleopatra Thea, 78; death 
of, 31-32, 126-131; duties as 
queen, 33-34; education of, 
11-12, 108; and Egypt, 105; 
and Egyptian religion, 16; fam- 
ily of, 11; foreign policy, 22; 
goals of, 64-65; and Herod, 28, 
79-80; image of, 63, 65-66, 68; 
andlsis, 20, 23, 80, 115; and 
Julius Caesar, 18-20, 64, 82- 
83, 97-98; and Mark Antony, 
23-31, 64, 106-131 passim; 
and Octavian, 132-134; and 
Plutarch, 86; and Ptolemy XIII, 
14, 93-95; and Ptolemy XIV, 
19, 20; in Rome, 20; seizes 
power, 15-17; temple building, 
25; territories of, 26, 29, 115; 
and Venus Gentetrix, 21; 
wealth of, 41 

Crete, 26, 77 

Cyprus, 4, 6, 10, 13, 19, 22, 26, 76 

Demeter, 51 

Diodoros, 36 

Dionysos, 12, 20, 23, 28, 90, 91, 

Donations of Alexandria, 28-29, 

77, 115 
Dream of Nektanebos, 49 
Dryton, 50 

Egypt, bureaucracy, 38, 40; econ- 
omy, 38; famine, 22; fleet, 17, 
22-23, 30-31, 41; government 
corruption, 40-41, 136-140; 
land tenure, 36-37; organiza- 
tion of, 36-38, 88-89; religion 



of, 15, 51-52, 80-81; society 
of, 43^4, 46-47 

Egyptians, and Greeks, 47-48, 50, 
138, 142-146; attitudes toward 
non-Egyptians, 43-44; culture 
of, 49; and Ptolemaic govern- 
ment, 46; revolts of, 8, 15, 48- 
49, 147-148 

Elephant hunting, 7, 88 

Elephantine, 45 

Ephesus, 105 

Erasistratos, 59-60, 89 

Eratosthenes of Kyrene, 59 

Ergamenes (Kushite King), 7 

Euclid, 60 

Euhemeros, 57 

Exodus, 47-48, 145-146 

Isis, 20, 23, 51, 

Iturea, 26 

-81,91, 115, 

Jerusalem, 4, 146 

Jews, 4, 87; early settlement in 
Egypt, 44-45; and Egyptians, 
47-48, 145-146; in Ptolemaic 
Egypt, 45-46, 52 

Juba II, 32, 77, 131 

Judaea, 4, 13, 26, 46 

Julius Caesar, Gaius, and Cleopatra 
VII, 17-21, 82-83, 97-98; cal- 
endar reform of, 21; death of, 
21; and Egypt, 94-95, 104- 
105; life of, 81-83; triumph of, 
20-21; writings of, 93 

Fulvia, 108, 110-111 

Gabinians, 14 , 94, 96 
Ganymedes, 101, 105 
Geography, 59 
Greeks, Alexandrian, 13, 16, 19, 

25, 60-61, 75, 100-103, 127; 

early settlement in Egypt, 45; 

and Egyptians, 47, 138, 142- 

145; in Ptolemaic Egypt, 45- 

Hades, 51 
Helios, 91 

Herod, 20, 26, 28, 79-80, 119, 122 
Herodotos, 36, 37-38 
Herophilos, 59-60, 89 
Homer, 53 
Horace, 67, 132 
Horos, 20, 51,81,91 

India, 2, 7 

Instructions of a Dioketes to his 
Oikonomos, 39-40, 134-136 

Kallimakhos (governor of the The- 

baid), 16,22, 150-151 
Kallimakhos (poet), 56-57, 89 
Kallisthenes, 55 
Kerkeosiris, 36 
Kingship, 4; functions, 34; and gods, 

80-81; Ptolemaic, 36-37, 40; 

ruler cult, 14, 75, 89 
Koile Syria, 4, 5, 6, 10, 79, 88 
Ktesibios, 59 

Kush, 6-8. See also Nubia 
Kyrene, 4, 6, 10, 26, 77 

Laokritai, 138 

Lepidus, Marcus, 23, 27, 111, 115 

Library, 5, 19, 56-57, 88 

Libyans, 44 

Licinius Crassus, Marcus, 13, 82 

Literature, Egyptian, 58-59; Greek, 

57-58; Jewish, 57-58 
Livy, 67 

Lucan, Pharsalia, 67-68 
Lysimachos, 5, 74 



Macedon, 2, 3, 8 

Manetho, 48, 51, 89, 91 

Mathematics, 60 

Mechanics, 59 

Medes, 27, King of, 28 

Medicine, 59-60 

Memphis, 11, 44-45, 91, 142, 148- 

149, 153 
Menches, 36, 50 
Museum, 5, 55-56, 88, 141 

Nabataean Arabs, 26, 31, 121 

Naukratis, 45, 50 

Nektanebo II, 48, 49, 58 

Nicopolis, 30 

Nikolaos of Damascus, 12, 77 

Nile, 4, 22, 142-143 

Nomarch, 37 

Nomes, 37 

Nubia, 6-7, 32, 44, 88. See also 

Nubians, 44 

Octavia, 25, 28, 29, 32, 77, 83-84, 
111, 113-115, 131 

Octavian, 84-85; and Antony, 29, 
115-116; and Caesarion, 21; 
and Cleopatra Selene, 77; and 
Cleopatra VII, 31, 127-132; 
conquest of Egypt, 3 1 ; defeats 
Sextus Pompey, 27; and Egypt, 
64, 85, 122-123, 127; and 
Herod, 80; and Octavia, 83- 
84; propaganda, 30, 65-67, 
115, 132-134; and Second Tri- 
umvirate, 23; territories of 25- 
27, 111, 115-116; triumph of, 
131; war against Cleopatra VII, 
118; war preparations, 29-30 

Osiris, 12, 20, 23, 51, 81, 91, 153, 

Palestine, 24, 26 

Papyrology, 34-36 

Papyrus, 35 

Parhians, 108, 112 

Parthia, 6, 21, 24, 29, 

Pasherenptah III, 148-149 

Perdikkas, 2-4, 141 

Pharos, island, 53, 54, 96-97; light- 
house, 5, 88, 89, 96 

Pharsalus, battle of, 17 

Philip II, 2 

Philip III, 3 

Philip V, 8 

Philippi, battle of, 2, 24 

Philotas, 108-109 

Phoenicia, 26 

Phraaspa, 27 

Plutarch, Life of Antony, 23, 67, 85- 
86, 108 

Pluto, 91 

Pompey, 12-13, 14, 17-18, 82, 94 

Pompey, Sextus, 27-28, 115 

Pontus, 12, 89, 152 

Pothinos, 15, 19, 95, 97, 98 

Potter's Oracle, 48, 142-143 

Priests, 147 

Propertius, 67 

Prophecy of the Lamb, 48 

Psamtek I, 45 

Psamtek II, 44, 45 

Ptah, 11 

Ptolemais, 50 

Ptolemy, son of Cleopatra Selene, 

Ptolemy Apion, 10 

Ptolemy I, 3-5, 45-46, 86-88, 141, 

Ptolemy II, 5-6; and Cleopatra 
VII, 26; and Egyptians, 46; 
empire of, 6; and government 
of Egypt, 37-38; goals of, 39; 



and Greeks, 45; and India, 7; 
life of, 88-89; and Pharos, 
54; Revenue Laws of, 39; and 
Rome, 9; and Sarapis, 91; 
and Seleukids, 5-6; wealth 
of, 41 

Ptolemy III, 6, 153 

Ptolemy IV, 8, 46 

Ptolemy Philadelphos, 26, 29, 115 

Ptolemy V, 9, 48, 49, 60, 146-148 

Ptolemy VI, 10, 26, 57 

Ptolemy VIII, 10, 136 

Ptolemy X, 11, 12, 15,89 

Ptolemy XII, 11-12, 14, 15; and 
Alexandrian Greeks, 13; con> 
nation of, 148; and Dionysos, 
12, 20; and Egyptians, 148- 
149; exile of, 61; family of, 11, 
90; goals of, 10; life of, 89-90; 
and Pompey, 13; recognized by 
Rome, 13; and Rome, 89-90; 
temple building, 15 

Ptolemy XIII, 76; and Alexandrian 
War, 103-104; and Cleopatra 
VII, 14, 93, 95; death of, 19, 
104; expels Cleopatra VII, 17; 
imposter 24; and Pompey, 17, 

Ptolemy XIV, 17, 19, 22, 76, 105 

Sarapeum, 51, 61, 88, 90-91, 151- 

Science, 59-60 

Second Triumvirate, 22, 27, 73 
Seleukos I, 3-4, 88 
Senate, 9, 13 
Septuagint, 57, 89 
Serapaeum, 91, 153 
Serapion, 22, 24 
Shakespeare, William, Antony and 

Cleopatra, 68 
Shaw, George Bernard, Caesar and 

Cleopatra, 68-69 
Sinope, 152-153 
Society of Inimitable Livers, 24, 31, 

108, 122 
Sostratos of Knidos, 54 
Sparta, 6, 88 
Syria, 3, 21, 24, 26 

Tarsus, 23 

Taylor, Elizabeth, 68 

Teb funis, 36 

Temples, 37, 49 

Thebes, 15,48, 150-151 

Theokritos, 46, 57, 61, 89 

Timotheos, 51, 59, 152 

Titles, royal, 14, 15, 22, 26, 89, 146 

Typhon, 142-143 

Raphia, battle of, 8 
Rhakotis, 53,149, 153. See also 

Rome, and Antiochos III, 9-10; and 

Ptolemies, 9-10; and Ptolemy 

XII, 12-14 
Rosetta Stone, 48, 49, 147-148 

Virgil, Aeneid, 68, 83, 132 

Wills, of Ptolemies, 10, 12, 14, 18, 
95, 104-105 

Zenobia, 69 
Zeus, 51, 91 

About the Author 

STANLEY M. BURSTEIN is Professor and Chair of the History De- 
partment of California State University, Los Angeles, and has published 
a number of volumes on Greece, Egypt, and the Ancient World.